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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

The barista at the coffee shop is covered in tattoos. She says there are only two ways they hold her back. 1. She can’t work at Starbucks. 2. She can’t wear a corsage, since she’d just be way too busy, and this makes me laugh. She says no to gifts from prom dates—the wrist corsage, the pinned corsage; no to bridal

poem
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
poem
In the 5th century B.C.
an Indian philosopher
Gautama teaches "All is emptiness" 
and "There is no self." 
In the 20th century A.D.
Barbie agrees, but wonders how a man 
with such a belly could pose, 
smiling, and without a shirt.