How I Discovered Poetry: Denise Duhamel

How I Discovered Poetry ~ Denise Duhamel

SUCH A THING

I started writing
poetry
when I found out
that there was such a thing
as contemporary poetry,
that I didn’t have to
have a plot and minor characters
and a setting
and it could be all me,
like a channel
of all-Denise-all-the-time.
When I wrote stories
in my undergraduate fiction class,
the teachers asked,
“Might this instead be a poem?”
or “Don’t your characters
ever do anything but sit
at kitchen tables remembering the past?”
I started writing poetry
because there were things I couldn’t tell
anyone, but I could write them down.
I started writing poetry before I knew
it was poetry
by way of my journal and diaries.
I started writing poetry
because when the dishes flew
or my mother sobbed on the couch
my journal fell open, each page
a wing. I started writing
poetry when I had my first crush
and I couldn’t tell anyone
about it. I started writing
poetry so I myself wouldn’t
throw dishes or sob. Sometimes
I sobbed anyway and more than once
I’ve smudged my own writing
with a tear, but I wrote
right through it. I started
writing poetry because I was a misfit—
sickly, allergic. I wrote poetry
in the children’s hospital
in fourth grade when I fell in love
with a bald boy with cancer.
He was in sixth grade
with eyes that grew larger
and more stunning every day.
He wore away but not his eyes.
I wish now that I’d read him
my poems. I remember feeling
like a ten-year-old widow.
I started writing poetry
even though I found it embarrassing
to be so naked, so embarrassing
to think anyone would be interested
in what I felt.
I still find it embarrassing.
I started writing poetry
in secret. I started showing
my poems, much later, tentatively,
I guess to say, Hi,
I see you.
I’m here.

forthcoming in Limp Wrist

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3 responses to “How I Discovered Poetry: Denise Duhamel

  1. “like a ten-year-old widow.” Breathtaking.
    “..more than once, I’ve smudged my own writing with a tear, but I wrote right through it.”
    To Denise:those words are my feelings, too. It’s the reason I titled my own first collection, “Words From Water”. I had decided on that title, several years before I sat curled in a closet, crying, paper becoming wet with want, and sadness. It hit me then that my title was not merely alliterative, or a vague reference to Christian anecdotes “water into wine..”, etc. It hit me that my words literally were “from water.” That was in 1999.
    Thank you, Dustin, for placing such sensitive writers here!Peace.

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