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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.

The Threat

Denise Duhamel, 1961
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 and she thought this made me a favorite

I wanted to be like the girl in the made-for-tv movie Maybe I'll Come Home
in the Spring   which was supposed to make you not want to run away but it 
looked pretty fun especially all of the agony it put your parents through and 
the girl was in California or someplace warm with a boyfriend and they
always found good food in the dumpsters  at least they could eat pizza and 
candy and not meat loaf  the runaway actress was Sally Field or at least
someone who looked like Sally Field as a teenager  the Flying Nun propelled 
by the huge wings on the sides of her wimple  Arnold the Pig getting drafted
in Green Acres my understanding then of Vietnam  I read Go Ask Alice and 
The Peter Pan Bag books that were designed to keep a young girl home  but 
there were the sex scenes and if anything this made me want to cut my hair 
with scissors in front of the mirror while I was high on marijuana but I
couldn't inhale because of my lungs  my sister was the one to pass out
behind the church for both of us  rum and angel dust

and that's how it was  my sister standing at the top of all those stairs that 
lead up to the apartment and she pushed down the empty suitcase that
banged the banister and wall as it tumbled and I was crying on the other side 
of the door because I was sure it was my sister who fell  all ketchup blood and 
stuck out bones  my mother wouldn't let me open the door to let my sister 
back in  I don't know if she knew it was just the suitcase or not  she was cold 
rubbing her sleeves a mug of coffee in her hand and I had to decide she said I 
had to decide right then

From Girl Soldier, Garden Street Press, 1996. Reprinted with permission of Denise Duhamel.

From Girl Soldier, Garden Street Press, 1996. Reprinted with permission 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
The perfect voter has a smile but no eyes,
maybe not even a nose or hair on his or her toes,
maybe not even a single sperm cell, ovum, little paramecium.
Politics is a slug copulating in a Poughkeepsie garden.
Politics is a grain of rice stuck in the mouth
of a king. I voted for a clump of cells,
anything to
poem
They decide to exchange heads.
Barbie squeezes the small opening under her chin 
over Ken's bulging neck socket. His wide jaw line jostles
atop his girlfriend's body, loosely,
like one of those novelty dogs
destined to gaze from the back windows of cars.
The two dolls chase each other around the orange Country
poem
—to Sean Penn

I'm writing this on a plane, Sean Penn,
with my black Pilot Razor ballpoint pen.
Ever since 9/11, I'm a nervous flyer. I leave my Pentium
Processor in Florida so TSA can't x-ray my stanzas, penetrate
my persona. Maybe this should be in iambic pentameter,
rather than this mock sestina, each