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DEAR HARRIET

By Eileen Myles

I’m newly traumatized due to the following events:

On the morning of July 4th – a Saturday – I was packing my truck on East 3rd Street in Manhattan where I live. It was at the end of a rich and long haul of events.

A book has come out which I certainly won’t promote here – but I am finished working on it. Another book is scooting around the world via my agent. I finished it as well this spring. I wrote a bunch of,  I feel, smart essays that were due recently, I’ve been blogging here, and just saw the realization of the collection of silence a few nights ago and THEN went to El Paso with my cat Ernie, in the bag, to spend his summer there while I am at MacDowell. Sounds great. It is great. I feel like I have worked hard, I have feasted on effort, and with my love, Leopoldine I am now packing the truck. We are going on a vacation. We are going to P-town. A kind of ridiculous, beautiful, pretty gay place. One of my favorite places in the world. A vacation. A little writing to do, a little work. But not much. I can’t believe how much I accomplished this spring. I’m delirious with exhaustion and glad. Glad for the success of it all, and gleaming in the throes of a new hardy romance. We’re packing the truck. I’m pretty strong but she’s helping me and it’s great because I’m half out of my mind with tiredness. I can drive, I could drive to P-town blind. It’s one of my places. This is my belief. Though I brought too much. The place where we are staying asserted there would be no linens. So there’s big ridiculous trash bags full of sheets. Yet there are sheets here. I feel like a fool. Altogether I packed in the blurry way so I have an odd assortment of teeshirts. Too many books. At least 20. Paper, file folders. All easily gettable in New Hampshire or here but I’ve got a truck so I packed a lot. My computer’s jammed into a backpack inside its black case and my keyboard’s jammed in there as well. And my tough orange hard drive is there too. That’s all leaning against a pile of black trash bags on the curb. I think everything’s here no there’s some bags over by the door, but we’re pretty much done. Leopoldine does the foreboding point. She points at my backpack with the computer like THAT. Somewhere aloud or deep inside me I say yeah of course. Duh. And maybe then went and got the other bags. Or something. Like I said I was deeply exhausted. Then we got the show on the road. It was a great ride. I actually forgot something and we went back for it. Not like a diet coke but something that added to the pleasure of our trip. The tortillas! Fresh tortillas from El Paso that were only $1.49. Should I go back? Oh yeah. We’re a casual couple. Happily no one likes to get up at six and run or get out there on the road at five – it is a holiday so we ought to leave early. Nah we’re leaving at 1130. We’re forgiving people, really glad. Look at us. We’re going to cape cod. We’re going on a vacation. Yi-hah. And so we go. When we unpacked in Provincetown I discovered that computer backpack just didn’t get in the truck. It’s an advanced and progressive feeling, this kind of loss. And my response to loss in general is often oh great. I almost feel better. All that burden gone. All that information and weight. What a relief. And look this new hole in my life. The bright tingling shock of the hole of really where you work. My stuff. Gone. I mean when I brought all the books I kept thinking you know I just want to read. I don’t even know that I want to write another book right now. I have been so productive. Always all my life people say when you finish something you should jump right on the next thing right away. But I want to mourn. I want to own the gap. Usually I cope by not writing another opera or a novel, but a play. At the very least I don’t follow up on what I’ve  done. My plan to just work on poems this summer felt perversely good. MacDowell liked the idea. I write poems on paper don’t you. So I don’t think my poems are gone. I think they are safely tucked in one million little notebooks and scraps and legal pads. So it’s maybe it’s the diaspora of my poetry I’m facing today. My poetry’s not gone, it’s just out there. And my computer’s out there. I’m thinking sort of sentimentally of that messy desktop I’ll never see again. That food-spattered screen. I think I just have to bless the little guy cause there’s no end to this post, this longing for what’s gone and what will fill it in. And whenever and however I do that it will be different. I had a hard time falling asleep last night but I felt happy and safe and just thought for a moment you really have to go slow. I do.

Comments (22)

  • On July 8, 2009 at 6:14 pm Desmond Swords wrote:

    Hey Eileen, your attitude is very accepting and laudable, but i am confused, how much writing was on the computer, please?

    • On July 14, 2009 at 9:17 pm Eileen Myles wrote:

      a lot. Some is backed up on an old backup. Some is on paper in notebooks and scraps. And some probably very little other than correspondence, and personal notes, lists, is lost.

  • On July 8, 2009 at 7:17 pm disenchanting wrote:

    Thanks. Life can be cruel. Reminds me to do some serious backing up.

  • On July 8, 2009 at 7:29 pm John Oliver Simon wrote:

    Last winter I left my laptop in O’Hare. I thought I’d just get some work done in the last hour and sat awhile pecking away at the charging station by the gate. ASt the boarding call I carefully stuffed powercord into daypack and went on the plane. At 36K feet above Nebraska I thought I’d look over some translations. Oh sh*t. Naked loss, denial, anger, grief, mourning, letting go, then landing at SFO. I made the hopeless calls to the recording. Three days later I got a call. “We’ve got your laptop here, give us a credit-card number so we can ship it.”

    Maybe that could happen for you, Eileen!

    • On July 14, 2009 at 9:18 pm Eileen Myles wrote:

      I’m awaiting my good fortune but it might not take that form.

  • On July 8, 2009 at 9:25 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    This may not be much consolation, but:

    .
    Gone

    The best poem I ever wrote.
    Came like a flash from the blue.
    I scrambled for paper before
    inspiration flew like a dream,
    flowed like air through
    the filter of my memory.
    I had to grab it fast,
    so I wrote it on the back
    of another page for the moment.

    Later, I transcribed all my poems
    to more permanent form.
    I burned all the originals
    in my fire can.
    I never bothered to look
    at the back of any of them.
    Gone! My best poem.
    Just a flash in the can.

    .
    Copyright 2009 – Ponds and Lawns, Gary B. Fitzgerald

    • On July 14, 2009 at 9:19 pm Eileen Myles wrote:

      I tend to like these poems you post.

  • On July 9, 2009 at 1:00 am Michael James wrote:

    Sorry to hear that.

    My dad was caught up in Katrina and left all his poetry on his computer. He was kinda devastated. He told me to keep back ups of everything. Even paper-stuff. Because… you never know…

    Which is why I tend to keep paper copies. Deep down inside me, although I adore computers, I always feel a fishiness toward computers. Like they’re secretly plotting against me or something.

    Don’t you?

    • On July 9, 2009 at 1:20 am Christopher Woodman wrote:

      I feel a fishiness toward life. This morning I couldn’t for the life of me spell “thorough,” and even when I look it now that it’s lunchtime it still looks bizarre.

      My books are all full of ants and little lizard eggs, and not one of them is going to survive me, not even my hard back Chatto and Windus and Faber. Even my rejection slips are turning yellow.

      I met the son of a very famous dead painter recently, and he told me that I should be sure to clarify what should be done with my writings after I’m dead. The next time I see him I’ll ask him what to do about Harriet.

      Christopher

  • On July 9, 2009 at 3:12 am Kevin wrote:

    This might seem silly but would you mind dividing your entries into shorter paragraphs? It would make your entries more reader-friendly for me.

    Thanks.

    • On July 9, 2009 at 12:03 pm Matt wrote:

      “Reader-friendly.”

      We talk about reader-friendly writers. Why do we never talk about writer-friendly readers?

      • On July 9, 2009 at 12:22 pm Don Share wrote:

        Excellent point!

      • On July 9, 2009 at 12:28 pm thomas brady wrote:

        Paragraphs help you breathe.

        Lack of paragraphing, I think, ties into the modern poet’s obsession with ‘the line.’

        ‘Line’ is no. 1 for so many, when the order should be:

        1. Rhythm

        2. Stanza

        3. Line

        Stanza is hardly on the radar screen for most poets today. All they think about is ‘line.’

        A disdain for the stanza has led to a disdain for the paragraph.

        It’s the ugly secret few are willing to admit:

        Modern Poetry = Manifesto-ism + Self-indulgence + Sloppy Writing

        • On July 14, 2009 at 9:20 pm Eileen Myles wrote:

          too many shoulds, thomas. sounds like an exhausting practice and a life.

        • On July 17, 2009 at 12:51 pm Matt wrote:

          This is honestly the first time I’ve ever heard anyone speak of a “disdain for the paragraph”. I’m guessing, but I think that if you did a study of the paragraph lengths of all different kinds of literature through the ages, you probably wouldn’t be able to make any significant generalizations.

          If you need to breathe, use a bookmark. Put the bookmark under the spot where you stopped, look up, breathe, look down again, and continue reading. Just five easy steps!

          Sometimes I take a breather in the middle of a sentence, if it’s a long one.

          • On July 17, 2009 at 1:42 pm thomas brady wrote:

            Perhaps the gentleman known as Matt should read “The history of the English Paragraph” by Edwin Herbert Lewis.

            Especially interesting is a discussion of the one sentence paragraph controversy.

            A great many famous prose stylists make use of the one sentence paragraph. The percentages of this use are given.

            • On July 20, 2009 at 9:57 am Matt wrote:

              And this supports your point how?

    • On July 14, 2009 at 11:41 am Eileen Myles wrote:

      This is a technological problem. I always break them up but the blog rejected my break. I’m glad to be in tidbits. It’s the idea.

  • On July 17, 2009 at 11:21 am Bobby Byrd wrote:

    I hope at least that the tortillas were still good and a little bit fresh. Ernie sends his love.
    Bobby

    • On July 18, 2009 at 3:06 pm Eileen Myles wrote:

      Hi Bobby

      The tortillas were great! Now I am at ze macdowell. Send love to my son, the cat.

      love

      Eileen

    • On July 19, 2009 at 10:13 am Eileen Myles wrote:

      I was hoping I could “dislike” someone’s dislike of Bobby’s inquiry about the tortillas but turns out you can only dislike a post. You can’t dislike a comment on a post. I suppose it’s because Harriet would become a chain of dislike. So I’m saying it in words and redundantly too. I dislike the dislike. Come out, coward. What do you have against tortillas or friendly chatter. Poet nose to the grindstone fighting and feuding all the time? Though admittedly I like to beat people up.

  • On July 17, 2009 at 5:01 pm Harriet Harvey wrote:

    When the dogs of cyberspace eat my homework, I think of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s legendary account of how the entire text of “Kubla Khan” appeared to him in an opium-fueled dream, and how this vision evaporated when that irritating “person on business from Porlock” interrupted after he had transcribed only a few lines. But Coleridge bravely soldiered on, and wrote his epic poem, different, no doubt, from the drug-induced hallucination — and probably much better.


Posted in Uncategorized on Wednesday, July 8th, 2009 by Eileen Myles.