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Denise Duhamel
Hollywood, FL
Denise Duhamel is the author of Ka-Ching!
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Edward Hirsch’s 100 Poems to Break Your Heart hurts so good, as John Mellencamp once sang. This anthology collects poems from Wordsworth (1815) to Meena Alexander (2018) in order to showcase grief in its many manifestations. Hirsch provides mini-essays following each poem to contextualize the work, including information on the author’s life and the social/political times in which it was written. Hirsch includes not only poets who write in English but translations from the Greek, French, Spanish, Russian, Hungarian, Polish, Yiddish, Hebrew, Turkish, German, Portuguese, and Arabic. It is estimated that as of today the world has lost 6.62 million to Covid-19—and the real number is likely higher. We all are grieving someone or something, a tradition or a pre-Covid ritual now gone. 100 Poems to Break Your Heart is in line with Hirsch’s poetry advocacy, a continuation of his How to Read a Poem: And Fall in Love with Poetry (Ecco, 2000) as well as his own stunning elegiac Gabriel: A Poem (Knopf, 2014). Included in 100 Poems to Break Your Heart is one of my favorite poems by Muriel Rukeyser: Poem I lived in the first century of world wars. Most mornings I would be more or less insane, The newspapers would arrive with their careless stories, The news would pour out of various devices Interrupted by attempts to sell products to the unseen. I would call my friends on other devices; They would be more or less mad for similar reasons. Slowly I would get to pen and paper, Make my poems for others unseen and unborn. In the day I would be reminded of those men and women, Brave, setting up signals across vast distances, Considering a nameless way of living, of almost unimagined values. As the lights darkened, as the lights of night brightened, We would try to imagine them, try to find each other, To construct peace, to make love, to reconcile Waking with sleeping, ourselves with each other, Ourselves with ourselves. We would try by any means To reach the limits of ourselves, to reach beyond ourselves, To let go the means, to wake. I lived in the first century of these wars. Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at The Best American Poetry
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Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Enjoy Richard Blanco’s poem “America,” which portrays how his family celebrated the holiday. https://richard-blanco.com/book/city-of-a-hundred-fires/america/ Continue reading
Posted Nov 23, 2022 at The Best American Poetry
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In the latest issue of Persimmon Tree, Cynthia Hogue curates a suite of poems on “Lament, Rage, and Resistance” focusing on the voices of second wave feminist poets Karen Brennan, Aliki Barnstone, Patricia Spears Jones, Kathleen Winter, Ann Fisher-Wirth, Frances Payne Adler, Monifa Love, Pamela Uschuk, Ronna Magy, Mary Gilliland, and Tess Gallagher. Check out Tess’s exquisite poem. THE POETS DECIDE TO KEEP THE MOON Although the general imaginative capacity might seem to have been plundered by a man having set foot on the moon, poets decided, without deciding, to just keep dropping it into their poems as if nothing much had happened. They let it shine down on lovers as an ancient power and, in the bedtime stories of children, you still had to say goodnight to it. My part Cherokee mother was alive at the time this man-step took place. I remember her black hair falling to her waist like a horse-hair shawl when she took it in: “So a man walked on the moon,” she said. “They have been walking on women for years and haven’t discovered them. I think the moon is safe.” She could be severe, like someone who would leave you to die on the mountain when your time came. “The moon carried your great-grandmother out of a river once when it flooded her bed in the night,” she said. “She climbed on its back and it floated her to shore.” Then my mother went back to her astonishment that while men could walk on the moon they continued to walk on women, years into years, moons into moons, without realizing step into step, they were on sacred soil, the far off flesh of their birth into death into birth mothers. We sat silent together trying to take in such ignorance and star-fall. Soon it was time for breakfast. The moon had forgotten us altogether. I shook out some Cheerios into our bowls, those dependable moons with holes in the middle that miraculously float in milk. We took up our spoons like two planetary insurgents, women brave enough, every day, for the journey. You can read all the poems here: https://persimmontree.org/special-issue-2022/poetry/ Continue reading
Posted Nov 16, 2022 at The Best American Poetry
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POET AS PROTAGONIST: JILL BIALOSKY’S THE DECEPTIONS Jill Bialosky’s latest novel is driven by a poet narrator—her ambition, her intelligence, her desire and all that has been squelched. This protagonist will fascinate any reader who has felt marginalized, belittled, and erased by the patriarchy. THE DECEPTIONS unfolds as a narrative of awakening, an education in Greek gods and goddesses (including photographs from the Metropolitan Museum of Art), and a literary critique. The poet is a spouse and mother (a new empty nester), a teacher, a daughter to an ailing mother, and a mentor to a young literary neighbor. The poet’s world is upended when a more famous Visiting Poet comes to the all-boy’s school where she works. She shares with him her ambitious book manuscript, sonnet crowns which reimagine Leda and Zeus. Bialosky’s protagonist is in conversation with Yeats’ “Leda and the Swan” (with which the books opens) and, in many ways, also with Maxine Kumin’s “Pantoum, With Swan.” https://www.poemist.com/maxine-kumin/pantoum-with-swan I’m hesitant to say much more than this as the twists and turns lead to an explosive conclusion of THE DECEPTIONS. I can’t recommend this book enough. Congratulations, Jill! -- Denise Duhamel Continue reading
Posted Nov 9, 2022 at The Best American Poetry
Franny Choi’s The World Keeps Ending, and the World Goes On was published yesterday. The book engages with the perilous now—the climate crisis, political cruelty, marginalization—while reaching back in time (the comfort women of World War II, for example) to speculations of the future. Choi’s vision is wide-eyed, giving us one horrific apocalyptic gesture at a time, rather than a big “end of the world” moment. They point out generations who have already lived through their own apocalypse in such poems as “Upon Learning That Some Korean War Refugees Used Partially Detonated Napalm Canisters as Fuel.” When reading Choi’s book I was reminded of Danielle Moodie aka @DeeTwoCents. In her post “Thoughts this morning on the end of the world,” she says “This is actually the worst part…I gotta work through this shit?” https://twitter.com/DeeTwoCents/status/1578404945874886657?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Etweet While Danielle Moodie is darkly funny, Franny Choi writes with reverence and tenderness as demonstrated in these lines: We knew the end was/coming here./We knew it/and like idiots—like perfect idiots—/we stayed. The World Keeps Ending, and the World Goes On is a wise and engaging collection. You can read Choi’s title poem here: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/151513/the-world-keeps-ending-and-the-world-goes-on Congratulations, Franny! Continue reading
Posted Nov 2, 2022 at The Best American Poetry
VOODOO LIBRETTO AND THE SEIBLES’ VILLANELLE In February of 2022, Tim Seibles published Voodoo Libretto: New & Selected Poems. This essential volume—close to 300 pages of veracious verse--spans the cutting edge career of a self-described “black baby boomer.” Terrance Hayes has written a wonderful review in the form of a board game. Hayes includes a charts contextualizing Seibles’ poems with cultural shifts or “the measure of time in the body of work and in the body of Tim Seibles in America, and the spirit of his poems on earth.” https://yalereview.org/article/terrance-hayes-tim-seibles One of the most glorious poetic gestures Seibles employs is what I call “the Seibles Villanelle.” In these poems, he elongates the villanelle to 25 lines and combines it with the blues for stunning results: https://poets.org/poem/all-time-blues-villanelle Congratulations, Tim! Continue reading
Posted Oct 26, 2022 at The Best American Poetry
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Did you ever get an issue of a literary magazine that you find yourself returning to again and again? For me, that is New Ohio Review, Issue 31 published this summer. When first getting NOR in the mail, I scanned the TOC and immediately went to Jeffrey Harrison’s poem “A Message from Tony Hoagland.” https://newohioreview.org/2022/08/26/a-message-from-tony-hoagland/#more-27207 Tony passed away four years ago now, on October 23, 2018. This same volume of NOR also contains two of Tony’s poems as well as two by Kathleen Lee, Tony’s beloved widow. https://newohioreview.org/2022/08/18/sad-as-is/#more-27265 https://newohioreview.org/2022/08/19/late-dark-and-windy/#more-27243 The issue ends with Dean Young’s poem “O Youthfulness.” Dean passed on August 23, 2022, shortly after this NOR issue was published. He and Tony were friends and wrote poems in which each other appeared as characters. Tony’s and Dean’s poems do not appear on the NOR online site, but the print issue is more than worth the price! Here are earlier poems Tony and Dean wrote to each other… https://whatnarcissismmeanstome.tumblr.com/post/3623714914/when-dean-young-talks-about-wine-tony-hoagland https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/browse?contentId=48665 Continue reading
Posted Oct 19, 2022 at The Best American Poetry
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T This ‘Wednesday with Denise” is devoted to the prose poem, such as those included in Short (edited by Alan Ziegler) or, if you can find it, Michael Benedikt's anthology The Prose Poem. I encourage you, too, to take a trip around the world via the prose poems in ARC. Prose poets in this anthology—from England, Ireland, the Philippines, Iraq, Nigeria, Australia, and Tunisia—appear alongside names more familiar to an American audience like Joan Mazza, Rikki Santer, and Ron Padgett. Dr. Pragma Suman, ARC’s editor, includes an interview with featured poet Peter Johnson. https://www.arcmagazine.co.in/_files/ugd/7b4db6_376a3a14987649e4a57b8cd1b4441b24.pdf Peter Johnson is also the editor of the seminal magazine The Prose Poem: An International Journal, which was published from 1992-1999. The archives are available here: https://digitalcommons.providence.edu/prosepoem/about.html Continue reading
Posted Oct 12, 2022 at The Best American Poetry
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WEDNESDAYS WITH DENISE October 5, 2022 Sharon Olds’ latest book BALLADZ was published yesterday. It is a tour de force of mature, startling, haunting poems that reach over time from the speaker’s childhood to the recent pandemic, from first loves to present day romance and loss, concluding with a series of wise, powerful elegies. The book also plays homage to poetic lineage, most notably a suite of poems in conversation with Emily Dickinson. Olds also acknowledges a slew of poetry friendships and their sustaining power. Here is just one example in which she writes a poem “like a mate for Galway’s ‘Bear.’” https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2021/07/12/a-song-near-the-end-of-the-world And here is the late Galway Kinnell’s poem: https://poets.org/poem/bear Congratulations, Sharon! In the photo above, Sharon Olds (right), David Lehman (center), and Gerald Stern (left) prior to the "Best American Poetry" launch reading of 2010. Photo credit: Lawrence Schwartzwald. Continue reading
Posted Oct 5, 2022 at The Best American Poetry
Hi Lauren, Thank you! Denise and I did find Major, but not until the next day. His plane was rerouted and his cell phone battery died. Pretty ordinary stuff in the end... Denise