Denise Duhamel, professor in the Creative Writing Program, has guest edited The Best American Poetry 2013. The honor comes twenty years after one of her poems first appeared in the series.
Published annually by Scribner, The Best American Poetry series is the most popular and best-selling book in its genre. According to the Academy of American Poets, it captures the spirit of current attitudes in American poetry by taking a snapshot of the breadth of poems. Started by poet and editor David Lehman in 1988, Best American Poetry has a different guest editor every year selected by Lehman.
“I got a call from David Lehman in 2011 asking if I was willing to do this and, of course, I said yes. It’s a huge responsibility, I feel very honored to have been able to guest edit this anthology,” Duhamel said. “I wanted to include new poets who haven’t appeared in the series before. I remember how important it was for me, professionally, to have my first poem included in the anthology and gain so much exposure. I also wanted women poets to be well-represented here.”
This year’s anthology includes 75 poems, 34 of which were written by newcomers never before anthologized in the series. There are an even 38 male and 38 female poets. And it is the first time a collaborative poem appears in the series.
In 1993, then-editor Louise Glück selected Duhamel’s poem titled “Feminism,” to appear in the yearly anthology for the first time. The poem borrows language from the Girl Scouts handbook and weaves through tenets of feminism.
“The poem takes a look at how little girls in the Girl Scouts are taught to help others and be selfless, whereas feminism teaches you to stand up for yourself, so it merges those two schools of thought,” Duhamel said.
Since then, Duhamel’s poetry has been anthologized in eight editions of The Best American Poetry series.
“You have to be among the best American poets to be a guest editor of this series,” said James Sutton, chairman of the Department of English. “This really validates the type of poetry she writes. It says something about the importance of Denise’s energetic, honest and no-holds-barred brand of poetry. This also underscores the importance of the teaching role poets play. It requires an intellectual ability to decide what the most important poetry this year is.”
Duhamel has a Master of Fine Arts from Sarah Lawrence College and is a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship. Her best-selling and most popular book to date, Kinky (1997), marries her bent for satire, humor and feminism in portraying the pop culture icon, the Barbie doll. A bilingual edition of her poems, Afortunada de mí (Lucky Me), translated into Spanish, was published in Spain in 2008. Her most recent publication, Blowout (2013), celebrates and mourns romantic love – the blowout of a party, as well as the sudden rupture of a front tire.