poem index

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.

Exquisite Candidate

Denise Duhamel, 1961
I can promise you this: food in the White House
will change! No more granola, only fried eggs
flipped the way we like them. And ham ham ham!
Americans need ham! Nothing airy like debate for me!
Pigs will become the new symbol of glee,
displacing smiley faces and "Have A Nice Day."
Car bumpers are my billboards, billboards my movie screens.
Nothing I can say can be used against me.
My life flashes in front of my face daily.
Here's a snapshot of me as a baby. Then
marrying. My kids drink all their milk which helps the dairy industry.
A vote for me is not only a pat on the back for America!
A vote for me, my fellow Americans, is a vote for everyone like me!
If I were the type who made promises
I'd probably begin by saying: America,
relax! Buy big cars and tease your hair
as high as the Empire State Building. 
Inch by inch, we're buying the world's sorrow.
Yeah, the world's sorrow, that's it!
The other side will have a lot to say about pork
but don't believe it! Their graphs are sloppy coloring books.
We're just fine—look at the way
everyone wants to speak English and live here!
Whatever you think of borders,
I am the only candidate to canoe over Niagara Falls
and live to photograph the Canadian side.
I'm the only Julliard graduate—
I will exhale beauty all across this great land
of pork rinds and gas stations and scientists working for cures,
of satellite dishes over Sparky's Bar & Grill, the ease
of breakfast in the mornings, quiet peace of sleep at night. 

From Exquisite Politics. Copyright © 1997 Denise Duhamel and Maureen Seaton. Reprinted by permission of Tia Chucha Press.

Denise Duhamel

Denise Duhamel

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

by this poet

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
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
Men are legally allowed to have sex with animals,
as long as the animals are female.
Having sexual relations with a male animal
is taboo and punishable by death.

As long as the fish are female
saleswomen in tropical fish stores are allowed to go topless.
Adultery is punishable by death
as long as the betrayed