Denise Duhamel & Maureen Seaton.
Tia Chucha Press, 1997.
71 pages, $10.95 (paperback).
. . . a woman who wants everyone
all at once, on every side . . .
Here is the truth about gender, according to the gospel of Exquisite Politics: every one of us is both "butch" and "femme," hustler and masochist. Given the chance, we'd grab it all. Yes! Duhamel and Seaton have collaborated on a touchingly provocative set of fairy tales about drag queens and politicians, chauvinist dads, first loves, and feminist clams. Their vision is quirky, defiant, wistful. Their formula?—Take two wise, talented women poets engaged in the political act of collaboration. Allow years of labor, mixed with humor and magic, and boom!, you have a delicious history of desire in the late 20th Century.
These eighteen tales, written as sonnets, political speeches, litanies and guides, expose the bizarre in the everyday. Purely political poems, such as "Exquisite Candidate," depict cliches of American culture. Like the movie Bulworth, they entertain. However, it is the riskier works on gender that are this book's soul. "Suicide" and "Let Me Explain" reveal vulnerability and confusion by attacking the "hot buttons" of bisexuality, violence, and obesity. I loved best "The Femme Diaries"—lyrical, beautiful on the page, full of simple truths ("All the girl saints were femmes, except for Joan of Arc"). Here, the cacophony of voices blending and surging becomes an aria to gender. Alone, this poem would make Exquisite Politics a must-read.
In playing the Surrealist's game of collaborative writing, called "Exquisite Corpse," Duhamel and Seaton have created a small jewel worth savoring until the next set of gender histories emerges after the millennium.