Synopses & Reviews
The Star-Spangled Banner, Denise Duhamel's sixth book of poems, is about falling in love, American-style, with someone who is not American.
In the title poem, a small American girl mishears the first line of "The Star-Spangled Banner" as "José, can you see?", which leads her to imagine a foreign lover of an American woman dressed in a star-spangled gown. The misunderstandings caused by language recur throughout the book: contemplating what "yes" means in different cultures; watching Nickelodeon's "Nick at Nite" with a husband who grew up in the Philippines and never saw The Patty Duke Show; misreading another poet's title "The Difference Between Pepsi and Coke" as "The Difference Between Pepsi and Pope" and concluding that "Pepsi is all for premarital sex. / The Pope won't stain your teeth." Misunderstandings also abound as characters mingle with others from different classes. In "Cockroaches," a father-in-law refers to budget-minded American college students backpacking in Europe as cockroaches, not realizing his daughter-in-law was once, not so long ago, such a student/roach herself.
With welcome levity and refreshing irreverence, The Star-Spangled Banner addresses issues of ethnicity, class, and gender in America.
"Duhamels careful yet freewheeling musings employ a seamlessly shifting digital palette of techniques, devices, and tones, all in the service of a poet able to maintain distance yet remain engaged and human. She is much like this last-call century of ours, searching for the point from which to take a running leap to a new kind of poetry. The playfulness, the quirky self-consciousness, the roll-up-your-sleeves-and-fight examination of the self, and the casual anecedotal quality of Duhamels lines go a long way to make these poems a pleasure."Rain Taxi
"Filled with lyric, narrative, and prose poems, this collection underscores Duhamels versatility. For this she has received accolades and descriptions befitting Rosie ODonnell at one end of the spectrum and Walt Whitman at the other. . . . Walking with Duhamel is a powerful way to spend some time. Whether she maneuvers with zany humor or the kind of humor that holds terror at bay, you can count on a laugh. You can also count on a fearless and compassionate spirit willing to shine a merciful light on social issues."Cæsura
"Denise Duhamel will make even the sourest sour puss chuckle. . . . Duhamel adds levity to the painful and the all-American and the personal. May she charm her readership with her insights."Poet Lore
"[W]hat unites these poems is a strong sense of a speaker, who is smart and witty, who lapses into moments of insecurity, and who, most importantly, is a poet. It is that perspective which gives these poems a unique appeal."Indiana Review
"[S]o overwhelming is her relish for life that embarrassment, or titillation when the subject is sexual, just doesn't stand a chance. Life-affirming without being treacly, Duhamel is a character who assures us the world is full of character."Booklist
About the Author
Denise Duhamel's previous books and chapbooks of poetry include Exquisite Politics (with Maureen Seaton), Kinky, Girl Soldier, and How the Sky Fell. Her work has been anthologized in such volumes as The Best American Poetry 1998, The Best American Poetry 1994, and The Best American Poetry 1993.