When her Florida apartment is damaged by the ferocity of Hurricane Irma, Duhamel turns to Dante andterza rima, reconstructing the form into the long poem “Terza Irma.” Throughout the book she investigates our near-catastrophic ecological and political moment, hyperaware of her own complicity, resistance, and agency. She writes odes to her favorite uncle—who was “green” before it was a hashtag—and Mother Nature via a retro margarine commercial. She writes letters to her failing memory as well as to America’s amnesia. With fear of the water below and a burglar who enters through her second story window, she bravely faces the story under the story, the second story we often neglect to tell.
Excerpt from “Terza Irma”
I hoist my suitcase up the stairs, brace myself as I open the door, slip on water in the hall, and come face
to face with my books, the white shelves drip- ping. I pull down Dante—the pages heavy, wavy as potato chips—
then pat down the walls, trying to gauge where the leak’s come from—the apartment above? My ceiling’s dappled with beige
clouds I’m afraid will burst, a descent of more indoor rain. I make my way to the condo office, to lament
the havoc, ask for some help. My neigh- bors are in varied states of panic and shock, agitated castaways.
Denise Duhamel can be serious and playful in the very same sentence, solemn and satiric in a single stanza. . . . Second Story continues a string of amazing poetry collections, from Queen for a Day to Ka-Ching! to Blowout to Scald. She is funny and illuminating all at once.
Past Praise for Denise Duhamel: “Duhamel puts language on a taut high wire, gives it a spotlight, and makes it dazzle. . . . Beauty is always risky, and with Duhamel at the wheel, it’s also always where we will be delivered. I’ll follow Duhamel anywhere she leads.”
Funny and satiric, always with an edge of existential sorrow.
Political and socially critical, yes, but [her poems’] most delicious subversion is in their delivery: frankness and its accompanying joy.
Denise Duhamel is a distinguished university professor in the MFA program at Florida International University in Miami. Her previous books include Scald, Blowout, Ka-Ching!, Two and Two, Queen for a Day: Selected and New Poems, The Star-Spangled Banner,and Kinky.She is a recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.