Once, years ago, in a job interview (with people I didn’t like) when asked, “what’s the next thing you’re working on?” I said: “A biography of the trees in Karstula, my grandfather’s village.” That did the trick, the lights went out in their eyes. Boy do I know my trees.
Yesterday I went to see Eileen Myles at Reed.
(This photo was taken by Tom Orange in 2008, but it’s very much what she looked like.)
One of the lines that’s always in her bio and was repeated in her introduction is that she moved to New York City in 1974 to become a poet. She did become one, and everyone is still curious about it. The students were trying to figure it out: what does that mean, what does she do exactly, how does she decide what to write down and what to make public.
I don’t go to many poetry readings. I find them really awkward. When the poems are short, do you clap after each one? What I really hate is when there’s no applause afterward but a few people feel compelled to go “mm,” or “hnh,” to show how thoughtful and appreciative they are. (Okay, maybe they are doing it completely unconsciously, but IT SURE DOESN’T FEEL THAT WAY.) Eileen Myles couldn’t erase all the awkwardness, but she acknowledged it in a poem, and also did not read in Poetry Voice. She said she feels distrust when poets read like every word is important. “I go to a lot of poetry readings,” she said. “I love them. But part of what I do is not listen. So I read as if a lot of loss will occur.”
I’m going to read more of her work. Maybe even the novel with a main character named Eileen Myles, the sort of thing that usually makes me run screaming!