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photo of eileen myles taken from barbarapollack.com

 

there is a kitten purring on my ankles.

i gotta be honest here, there’s a lot i don’t know about poetry. there are a lot of poets out there that “everyone” (qualification: “everyone” = poets and the like) has read, but that i came to calling myself a poet through very different channels. i never explored poetry really until i was thinking about new ways of processing ideas/theories/perceptions. aside from relating to a few e.e. cummings poems as a teenager i didn’t have poetic heroes until recently, and my personal list is a little narrow.

so i’d never heard of eileen myles before coming to mills. when we were discussing the contemporary writers series at the orientation for my job at the place for writers a couple of my co-workers seemed beyond excited that myles was going to be coming, so i took notice and investigated her work.

on the surface myles’ poetry could read as a sort of poetic diary entry, albeit one possessed by a frank and sex positive queer, but as i tangled more with her poems, and found videos/audio clips of her reading them i began to tune into the layered language games she is turning within them. eileen writes conversationally and masks her intricate understanding of the english language. i accessed the music of the work, and it’s complexities. i volunteered to create a broadside of her work for the book art program to sell at the reading.

eileen sent me a poem, “the weather” which i set in a long column of typewriter text. setting that poem was a freaking nightmare, as i had never worked with a monospaced typeface, and i was not so wise to its unique and frustrating spacing issues. i had to carefully go back after setting the entire poem and tweak each individual space between words proof it, tweak it again, etc. to the point where i imagine i adjusted each line 3 times on average.

so i got to know “the weather” pretty intimately. there’s this moment a little past the middle of the poem where she brings up her mother’s “Christian” face and then wonders:

…Is it an abomination
to put that
in a poem to
my lover
not so much to
you as with
you in it
in the same world
of the card…

at first i was amused by her blunt acknowledgement of referencing both sex and mom in the same poem. the “ick” moment. then i read the poem again and was struck by her subversion of the word “abomination.” what’s the abomination here? is it the “ick” factor? is it the lesbian relationship? is it the mother? i revel in the question. in the borderland. she seems to be claiming a queer stake in the determining of “abominations.”

as the reading rapidly approached i got nervous. on the day of i was trimming, numbering, and erasing smudges on broadsides when i realized that i’d failed to include eileen’s dedication of “the weather” to her friends whose birthday party she was attending in the action of the poem.

FUCK!

being the neurotic i am and not knowing how one might take this exclusion (maybe she won’t notice? maybe she won’t care? maybe it will ruin the whole broadside for her?!) i proceeded to stress about it for the rest of the day. when 5 o’clock rolled around it was time to face the music and i rushed to mills hall to get the signing of the broadsides underway.

rebecca maillet introduced us and i sort of blurted out “eileen! i’ve made an error!” she uneasily replied “oooook?” and i told her about the lack of dedication. she laughed and patted me on the shoulder, “oh, that’s no big deal. i thought you were gonna say that you changed a line or two or something like that.” i made some dumb mumbled joke about the word glisten (last word/line of the poem), and we made our way to the english graduate lounge.

my intention was to leave the broadsides with her and then go set up the camera for the reading, make myself available to my co-workers, and make sure everything was running smoothly, but as soon as i set them down in front of her eileen started talking to me. she asked me about making the broadside, about my background. we talked about “the weather,” about age differences, about places. eileen barreled into the conversation the same way she barrels into her readings. i was immediately charmed. she made me feel as if we’d been friends for far longer than 2 minutes and i sat there chatting animatedly with her until i suddenly realized it was 5 minutes before the reading was supposed to start and i had not set up the camera yet!

rebecca’s introduction was moving, everything that an introduction should be. hopefully she will be offering it up to the place for writers’ tumblr soon, and when she does i’ll make a special link to it. she has an intimate relationship with eileen’s poetry, and was able to speak about it in a way i definitely cannot. it seems like eileen myles holds a sacred spot in the hearts of many a young poet.

the reading was sort of like an extension of the conversation eileen and i had been having in the grad lounge beforehand. she read two poems, “the weather” and another titled something about fish that escapes me at the moment, and from her new poet’s novel inferno. the audience was completely engaged. looking around the room people leaned forward, elbows on knees, leaned backward, heads tossed up in laughter. barely anyone was still or sullen. her work locates both the poet and the reader (audience) within the realm of the real. what is real? your english professor’s ass. being totally broke. wondering which experiences are the ones you should make leaps to have, and which should be avoided entirely. the odd and dirty beauty of the city. feeling powerful. feeling insecure. pussies.

for myles it seems that poetry is a continual conversation with everyone and everything that she is always ready to engage in.

eileen, please, keep talking to me.

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