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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.

Lawless Pantoum

Denise Duhamel, 1961
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 woman uses her bare hands to kill her husband.

Saleswomen in tropical fish stores are allowed to go topless,
but the gynecologist must only look at a woman’s genitals in a mirror.
The woman uses her bare hands to kill her husband,
then his dead genitals must be covered with a brick.   

The gynecologist must only look at a woman’s genitals in a mirror
and never look at the genitals of a corpse—
these genitals must be covered with a brick.
The penalty for masturbation is decapitation.

A look at the genitals of a corpse
will confirm that not much happens in that region after death.
The penalty for masturbation is decapitation.
It is illegal to have sex with a mother and her daughter at the same time.

To confirm what happens during sex,
a woman’s mother must be in the room to witness her daughter’s deflowering,
though it is illegal to have sex with a mother and her daughter at the same time.
It is legal to sell condoms from vending machines as long as

a woman’s mother is in the room to witness her daughter’s deflowering.
Men are legally allowed to have sex with animals—
why it’s even legal to sell condoms from vending machines, as long as
everyone’s having sexual relations with a male animal.

From Two and Two: Poems, by Denise Duhamel, © 2005. Reprinted with the permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press.

From Two and Two: Poems, by Denise Duhamel, © 2005. Reprinted with the permission of the University of Pittsburgh 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
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
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