Duhamel, Denise 1961–
Duhamel, Denise 1961–
PERSONAL: Born June 13, 1961, in Woonsocket, RI; daughter of Normand (a baker) and Janet (a nurse) Duhamel; married Nick Carbo (a poet), August 22, 1992. Education: Emerson College, B.F.A., 1984; Sarah Lawrence College, M.F.A., 1987.
ADDRESSES: Home—Hollywood, FL. Office—Florida International University, 3000 Northeast 151st St., North Miami, FL 33181. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Poet and teacher. Lycomimg College, Williamsport, PA, assistant professor, 1994–95; Florida International University, North Miami, FL, assistant professor, 1999–2004, associate professor, 2004–. Workshop instructor at various events and institutions, including Hudson Valley Writers Center, 1998, Rutgers University, 1999, and Iowa Writers Workshop, 2000. Poet-in-residence, Bucknell University, 1989, and University of Pittsburgh, 2000; writer-in-residence, American University, 1993.
MEMBER: Academy of American Poets, PEN, Poetry Society of America, Poets House.
AWARDS, HONORS: Poetry fellowship, New York Foundation for the Arts, 1989; Crab Orchard Poetry Prize, 1998, for The Star-Spangled Banner; poetry fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts, 2000.
Heaven and Heck (chapbook), Cortland Press (Cortland, NY), 1988.
Skirted Issues (chapbook), Stop Light Press (Bronxville, NY), 1990.
It's My Body (chapbook), Egg in Hand Press (Chicago, IL), 1992.
Smile!, Warm Spring Press (Harrisburg, PA), 1993.
Girl Soldier, Garden Street Press (Truro, MA), 1996.
How the Sky Fell, Pearl Editions (Long Beach, CA), 1996.
Kinky, Orchard Press (Alexandria, VA), 1997.
(With Maureen Seaton) Exquisite Politics, Tia Chucha Press (Chicago, IL), 1997.
The Star-Spangled Banner, Southern Illinois University Press (Carbondale, IL), 1999.
(With Maureen Seaton) Oyl, Pearl Editions (Long Beach, CA), 2000.
Queen for a Day: Selected and New Poems, University of Pittsburgh Press (Pittsburgh, PA), 2001.
(With Maureen Seaton) Little Novels, Pearl Editions (Long Beach, CA), 2002.
(Editor, with Nick Carbo) Sweet Jesus: Poems about the Ultimate Icon, Anthology Press (Los Angeles, CA), 2002.
Two and Two: Poems, University of Pittsburgh Press (Pittsburgh, PA), 2005.
Mille et un sentiments, Firewheel Editions (Danbury, CT), 2005.
(Editor, with David Trinidad and Maureen Seaton) Saints of Hysteria: A Half-Century of Collaborative American Poetry, Soft Skull Press (Los Angeles, CA), 2006.
Work represented in The Best American Poetry, 1993, 1994, 1998, 2000, and 2006. Contributor to anthologies, including Aloud: Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Café, Autonomedia Press (Brooklyn, NY), 1995, Like Thunder: Poets Respond to Violence in America, University of Iowa Press (Iowa City, IA), 2002, and The Poets' Grimm: Twentieth Century Poems from Grimm Fairy Tales, Story Line Press (Ashland, OR), 2003. Contributor to periodicals, including American Poetry Review, Harvard Review, and Ploughshares.
SIDELIGHTS: "Somewhere between [television series] Sex and the City, [poet] Sharon Olds and [monologist] Spalding Gray lies the poetry of Denise Duhamel," declared a Publishers Weekly reviewer in regard to Queen for a Day: Selected and New Poems. This volume joins such other works as The Star-Spangled Banner in exploring some of the topics that Duhamel finds inspiring: sexuality, gender politics, and body image. She also investigates her husband's Filipino heritage and her place in the poetry community.
Unlike some of her poetic peers who would find anger in such subjects, Duhamel is an entertainer, in the view of Booklist contributor Ray Olson. In Queen for a Day, the earlier poems are more serious, he said, while "her versions of sexually charged Inuit myths and famous fairy tales are lighter, though thoughtfully bemused rather than comic. Humor really enters her work in a series about the Barbie doll."
Some publishers, uncomfortable with Duhamel's sexual imagery, have chosen not to distribute her work. The banning of one of her books in Canada led the author to become an anticensorship advocate. Speaking to Nancy Lewis in a Virginian Pilot interview, Duhamel recounted the delay in the printing process for one of her books: "The printer came up with one excuse after another for not starting the press run…. After dragging its corporate feet for months, the company finally refused to print the book." As Duhamel added: "They said they never intended to print it, that it was pornographic." The book was eventually published, but the repercussions continued. According to Duhamel, even people from her Rhode Island hometown treat her differently upon learning that she is the author of a banned book.
Other critics have remarked favorably upon the accessibility of Duhamel's work. School Library Journal reviewer Emily Lloyd thought her collection Two and Two: Poems would likely appeal to young adults. The volume is full of references easily understood by young people, from slang language to humorous garbled English taken from Hong Kong films, to the what-if scenario between Noah (as in Noah's Ark) and Joan of Arc. Though some critics warn that her pop sensibility could verge into treacle, Duhamel is appreciated for her control over her subject matter. The poems in Two and Two convey a "sense of depth dipped in whimsy," wrote a reviewer for Publishers Weekly. Ray Olson, writing in Booklist, stated that these poems seem less personal than those in her previous collection, Queen for a Day, but provide new energy to confessional poetry in the form of "sass, deliberate absurdity, [and] overkill," and are presented in a variety of unconventional formats.
In addition to publishing her own work, Duhamel has collaborated in editing several well-received anthologies, including Saints of Hysteria: A Half-Century of Collaborative American Poetry, which brings together work from many communities of poets, including the Beats, the Language poets, and the New York School poets. All the poems were collaborative efforts between two or more poets—contradicting the idea of the solitary poet crafting a work of his or her singular vision—and were previously printed in small journals or chapbooks. Sweet Jesus: Poems about the Ultimate Icon is another anthology that Duhamel edited with her husband, the poet Nick Carbo, which includes religious-themed poems from sixty-three contemporary writers, including Sherman Alexie, Maxine Kumin, and Molly Peacock.
Duhamel once told CA: "When I was in high school, I believed that there were no living poets since the only poets I was exposed to in school were dead. It was not until I went to college that I was exposed to writers such as Kathleen Spivak, Bill Knott, and Sharon Olds—poets who really inspired me to try to be a poet myself."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, March 15, 1999, Ray Olson, review of The Star-Spangled Banner, p. 1274; March 15, 2001, Ray Olson, review of Queen for a Day: Selected and New Poems, p. 1345; March 1, 2005, Ray Olson, review of Two and Two: Poems, p. 1132.
Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN), April 27, 1999, Fredric Koeppel, "Award-Winning Poet to Read Here," p. C2.
Publishers Weekly, March 26, 2001, review of Queen for a Day, p. 86; April 18, 2005, review of Two and Two, p. 58.
School Library Journal, July, 2005, Emily Lloyd, review of Two and Two, p. 132.
Virginian Pilot, October 12, 1996, Nancy Lewis, "Poet Tells of Combating Censorship," p. E5.