Comparing Sexuality In Millay And Duhamel's Poems

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Two poets, Denise Duhamel and Edna St. Vincent Millay, helped to change the face of poetry for women through their poems. Duhamel, a contemporary poet, recently featured in the book The Best American Poetry 2015 for her poem “Fornicating.” Millay is a traditional poet who was placed in the Anthology An Introduction to Poetry for her poem “What Lips My Lips Have Kissed and Where and Why,” written in 1925. Both poems were written to further the ability of women to have their own sexuality; while sharing similar language, subjects, and viewpoints. However, they are different in form, structure, and event time lines. Millay and Duhamel stretch the boundaries of women’s sexuality in poetry through each of their poems. Millay who wrote her …show more content…
Both Millay and Duhamel’s poems share multiple partners and it being frowned upon. In fact Duhamel has been described as, ‘Somewhere between Sex and the City, Sharon Olds and Spalding Gray” (Huston, 12). The difference is Millay lets the time speak for her piece and Duhamel states that it is taboo. Duhamel does this by emphasis throughout her poem in lines such as, “Especially if you’re a woman and want to fornicate with a man” (23-25). The context of this line is asking a man for sex. Although one would assume that this is socially acceptable Duhamel is saying that men judge women for doing so. In fact many lines lends to this idea when she …show more content…
This is more explicit then anything Millay says in her piece however, Duhamel has said, “Sometimes the tone of a poem requires that I meet my subject head on, creating a balancing act between artifice and sincerity” (Huston, 12). Millay suggests that it is okay that women have multiple sexual partners and that it changes her for the better. However, when Millay could not have it, she missed it to a point of mourning. Duhamel furthered this statement by outright establishing that women want sex too and then feels bad about it because men’s connotations surrounding sex! In an interview with Smartish Pace conducted by Karla Huston, Duhamel stated, “I am very interested in reclaiming women’s sexual experience. Women are so often perceived as objects, sex symbols, and I am interested in writing in an active way, what sex is sometimes like for women, with all the complexities and political ramifications” (Huston, 12). This quote from the poet establishes the purpose for this piece again being sex for women and the feeling of objectification paired with symbolism. Furthermore, Duhamel said during her interview, “I do consider myself a feminist poet” (Huston, 12). Millay may never have directly said this was her aim but it is clear from context of the piece and her use

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