"I grew up on that kind of [second wave] feminism and thought, with Hillary in the White House, I would be in the zeitgeist. Little did I know I would instead be part of the resistance." Denise Duhamel
Six years ago, I met poet Denise Duhamel at the Pine Crest Inn in Tryon, NC. It was my first residency for my MFA, and I was nervous and a little afraid. This was it; I was either a writer, or I wasn't. Denise taught me to trust my instincts, but to also actively think about them. She taught me to be brave in my writing by being brave in her own. I would not be the poet I am today without this wonderful, fierce woman.
Out of all of your accomplishments, what are you most proud of and why?
That is a hard question, but I would say I am most proud that I “stuck to my (poetic and therefore metaphorical) guns” and didn’t give up on poetry when so many rejections kept coming. I went to school (both undergrad and grad) with extremely talented classmates who, for one reason or another, stopped writing poetry. There is no judgment as many have gone on to have happy lives outside of literature. I just knew that, for me, writing was my way of being in this world.
What are you currently working on? How long have you been working on it? How did you become interested in it/ where did you get the idea for it?
My new book Scald is out any day. My last book Blowout was so personal that I wanted to leap into something else. The book is arranged into three sections dedicated to Shulie Firestone, Andrea Dworkin, and Mary Daly—three controversial second wave feminists. I grew up on that kind of feminism and thought, with Hillary in the White House, I would be in the zeitgeist. Little did I know I would instead be part of the resistance. The post-Scald poems seem to be about feminism and pop culture as well, but it’s too soon to tell what will develop. Like so many others, I am writing about Trump and most recently cast him as a Legally Blond figure in “Lethally Orange.”
What issue are you currently most passionate about? What is the one thing you would like people to know or understand about this issue?
I am constantly trying to articulate my views on feminism to people who think “humanism” is a better term, people who think I am a nag. This is the first time in a long time that there are fewer women on the planet (some say because of China’s “one-child policy” and the preference for male heirs.) In any case, this is a big problem—women live longer than men on average, so there should be more of us. I truly believe that the feminization of culture could lend itself to a healing of the planet, especially when it comes to climate change.
What book or film with a female protagonist would you recommend and why? What female author’s, artist’s, or musician’s work would you recommend and why?
Lisa Glatt’s novel The Nakeds is a hilarious and poignant take on what it is to be female child in a body cast with a mother who joins a nudist colony.
I absolutely love the film Blue is the Warmest Color in which there is a beautiful and sexy teenager who actually eats two bowls of pasta.
As for musicians—Margaret Cho’s “I Wanna Kill My Rapist” is terrific.
As for poetry, Amy Newman’s re-writing of Howl is simply brilliant.
Aria Watson, only 18, has done a photo series of women using Trump’s own misogynist words.
Name one woman who has influenced you/ had an impact on you, perhaps as a mentor. Why and how did she impact your life?
My friend and collaborator, the poet Maureen Seaton, is a woman who lives with integrity and grace. She was “ahead” of me in terms of publishing and poetic maturity when we first met in 1987, but she always treated me as an equal. She and I talk endlessly about feminism and poetry and social justice through literature. She is often fearless when I am afraid—and has always believed in me, even when I didn’t truly believe in myself. She is a shining example of Poet!