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About this poet

In 1961, Denise Duhamel was born in Woonsocket, Rhode Island. She received a BFA degree from Emerson College and a MFA degree from Sarah Lawrence College.

She is the author of numerous collections of poetry, including: Blowout (University of Pittsburgh, 2013), Ka-Ching! (University of Pittsburgh, 2009), Two and Two (2005), and Mille et un sentiments (Firewheel Editions, 2005).

Her other books currently in print are Queen for a Day: Selected and New Poems (University of Pittsburgh, 2001), The Star-Spangled Banner, winner of the Crab Orchard Poetry Prize (1999); Kinky (1997); Girl Soldier (1996); and How the Sky Fell (1996). Duhamel has also collaborated with Maureen Seaton on three volumes: Little Novels (Pearl Editions, 2002), Oyl (2000), and Exquisite Politics (Tia Chucha Press, 1997).

In response to Duhamel's collection Smile!, Edward Field says, "More than any other poet I know, Denise Duhamel, for all the witty, polished surface of her poems, communicates the ache of human existence."

She has received grants and awards from numerous organizations, including a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. She is also the guest editor of The Best American Poetry 2013.

Duhamel teaches creative writing and literature at Florida International University and lives in Hollywood, Florida.

Sex with a Famous Poet

Denise Duhamel, 1961
I had sex with a famous poet last night 
and when I rolled over and found myself beside him I shuddered 
because I was married to someone else, 
because I wasn't supposed to have been drinking,
because I was in fancy hotel room
I didn't recognize. I would have told you 
right off this was a dream, but recently 
a friend told me, write about a dream, 
lose a reader and I didn't want to lose you
right away. I wanted you to hear
that I didn't even like the poet in the dream, that he has 
four kids, the youngest one my age, and I find him 
rather unattractive, that I only met him once,
that is, in real life, and that was in a large group 
in which I barely spoke up. He disgusted me 
with his disparaging remarks about women.
He even used the word "Jap"
which I took as a direct insult to my husband who's Asian. 
When we were first dating, I told him
"You were talking in your sleep last night
and I listened, just to make sure you didn't 
call out anyone else's name." My future-husband said
that he couldn't be held responsible for his subconscious, 
which worried me, which made me think his dreams
were full of blond vixens in rabbit-fur bikinis.
but he said no, he dreamt mostly about boulders 
and the ocean and volcanoes, dangerous weather 
he witnessed but could do nothing to stop. 
And I said, "I dream only of you,"
which was romantic and silly and untrue. 
But I never thought I'd dream of another man--
my husband and I hadn't even had a fight,
my head tucked sweetly in his armpit, my arm 
around his belly, which lifted up and down
all night, gently like water in a lake.
If I passed that famous poet on the street,
he would walk by, famous in his sunglasses 
and blazer with the suede patches at the elbows, 
without so much as a glance in my direction.
I know you're probably curious about who the poet is, 
so I should tell you the clues I've left aren't 
accurate, that I've disguised his identity, 
that you shouldn't guess I bet it's him...
because you'll never guess correctly
and even if you do, I won't tell you that you have. 
I wouldn't want to embarrass a stranger 
who is, after all, probably a nice person, 
who was probably just having a bad day when I met him, 
who is probably growing a little tired of his fame--
which my husband and I perceive as enormous, 
but how much fame can an American poet 
really have, let's say, compared to a rock star 
or film director of equal talent? Not that much,
and the famous poet knows it, knows that he's not 
truly given his due. Knows that many 
of these young poets tugging on his sleeve 
are only pretending to have read all his books.
But he smiles anyway, tries to be helpful. 
I mean, this poet has to have some redeeming qualities, right? 
For instance, he writes a mean iambic. 
Otherwise, what was I doing in his arms.

From The Star-Spangled Banner, Southern Illinois University Press, 1999. Reprinted with pemission of Denise Duhamel.

From The Star-Spangled Banner, Southern Illinois University Press, 1999. Reprinted with pemission of Denise Duhamel.

Denise Duhamel

Denise Duhamel

Born in 1961, Denise Duhamel is the author of numerous books and chapbooks of poetry

by this poet

poem
my mother pushed my sister out of the apartment door with an empty 
suitcase because she kept threatening to run away  my sister was sick of me
getting the best of everything  the bathrobe with the pink stripes instead of 
the red  the soft middle piece of bread while she got the crust  I was sick with 
asthma
poem
I stopped drinking on my way down the hill
to the liquor store when two guys pulled up
and tried to drag me into their pickup. I crossed the street
then ran in the opposite direction, puffing
against the incline. The stranger thrust into reverse 
and, when I wouldn't talk to him,
threw a bag of McDonald’s trash
poem
Yes
According to Culture Shock:
A Guide to Customs and Etiquette 
of Filipinos, when my husband says yes,
he could also mean one of the following:
a.) I don't know.
b.) If you say so.
c.) If it will please you.
d.) I hope I have said yes unenthusiastically enough
for you