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Star-Spangled Banner

Star-Spangled Banner

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Denise Duhamel


E-book (Other formats: Paperback)
6 x 9

Crab Orchard Series in Poetry


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About the Book

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.


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.


"Duhamel’s 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 Duhamel’s lines go a long way to make these poems a pleasure."—Rain Taxi