A stingray doesn’t know the word for “pathetic.” A saint does not care if prayer renders her pathetic. Poets are pathetic because they devote themselves to form in the face of formlessness. (Are they? Do they?) These kinds of formulations and queries arise in reading Pathetic Literature, the momentous anthology edited by Eileen Myles and released by Grove Press in November 2022.
Al Filreis convened Stephen Metcalf, June Thomas, and Jess Shollenberger to talk about two poems by Eileen Myles: “Writing” and “Mount St. Helens.” They appeared in Myles’s book of 2001, Skies, and were included by Myles in their volume of selected poems I Must Be Living Twice. Myles’s PennSound page includes several performances of these poems, including a powerful although understated reading of “Writing” here at the Writers House when they were visiting as a Kelly Writers House Fellow in 2016. The recordings we used for the purposes of our PoemTalk conversation were made during an episode of Charles Bernstein’s interview series “Close Listening” in March of 2009.
Davy Knittle and Eileen Myles had a conversation at Myles’s home in the East Village in New York City in August, 2018, for this PennSound podcast. Their discussion began in the midst of an exchange about Myles’s 1991 collection Not Me and changes in their neighborhood at the time. Conversation topics spanned “not-me-ness,” gender, capitalism, sexuality, perception, and observation, among others.
In the introduction to Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity, José Esteban Muñoz addresses the caretaking relationship between Eileen Myles and James Schuyler as one of anti-antirelational queer kinship.
Rachel Zolf, Eileen Myles, and erica kaufman joined Al Filreis to talk about four short poems from what was then an unpublished typescript of a new book by Simone White. The book is Of Being Dispersed, now available from Futurepoem. White performed these and other poems from the collection at a Segue Series reading at Zinc Bar in New York on January 11, 2014. The work responds in part to George Oppen’s Of Being Numerous. Numerousness, pluralism, plenitude of subjects, objects, and sources, are certainly inclusive influences — but are also extended and even defied here by the agony and ferocity of dispersal, the sexual and racial sense of being pushed out.
Eileen Myles’s recent visit to the Kelly Writers House in Philadelphia as a Kelly Writers House Fellow featured, among other public events, an interview-conversation moderated by me. The video recording of the one-hour conversation, which was live-streamed as a webcast, is now available here. Generally these were the works covered in the discussion: Inferno, The Importance of Being Iceland, Chelsea Girls, the essay “Foam,” and some of the poems gathered for I Must Be Living Twice: New and Selected Poems. The session concluded with Myles's reading a passage in Inferno in which she contemplates her return to Harvard to give a reading, a dislocated homecoming that leads to painful memories of what Harvard's complaints about her father's drinking signified.
Three times a year Abigail Lang, Olivier Brossard and Vincent Broqua organize a two-day "Poets & Critics" symposium in Paris – during which they welcome a multinational and multilingual group of writers, scholars and artists to discuss the work of one English-language poet. The terrifying but exhilarating condition: the poet will also be there. The poet will talk back to you. You will talk back to the poet. Hopefully you will begin talking together.
“Why should I — proud engineer — be ashamed of my machinery?”
In her poem “The Modest Woman,” published in the modernist literary magazine The Little Review in 1920, the Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven derides the prude and celebrates the female body and modern form.
Eileen Myles wrote “Snakes” just as she was assigning children in a friend’s Provincetown poetry workshop to write a poem with the following not-so-constraining-seeming constraint: “Be any age and go down the drain with it.” Her poem, then, is something of a pedagogical model, an exercise in teaching by participation. Or perhaps the assignment she gave the students simply felt so alluring to her — befit her own aesthetic so well — that she couldn’t help but try it herself, regardless of her role as young writers’ guide. This was in 1997 or so. By January 1998 she was reading the poem at the Ear Inn in New York. It was published in The Massachusetts Review also in 1998.