I don’t mind dwelling on the contest so much. I thought I’d knock it out last night – the choice, the final reading and then I found that the four I had narrowed it down to I in fact didn’t like. If a contest is for a book, an entire manuscript, it puts a particular burden on choosing. It re-inscribes how we read a book as opposed to a poem. My mind goes back to a review I was reading last night of a new film by the Dardenne brothers and it was saying that they were moral filmmakers, ethical even. My heart cheers when I see the word moral used in a film review or any weighing in on aesthetics because the first time a dictionary pushed me towards the notion that a critical thought is very much like a moral thought, I felt affirmed in my need to use the mind I already had in my art experience. I knew that morality is a kind of choosing. And so is art.


Order (in art) finally says who lives or in what moment they die or which life or which story has value or gets looked at another moment longer. A poem is like a moment in a film especially if you are flipping from one poem to the next. I don’t think of reading poetry as really reading.  I think of reading a novel as reading and I like getting lost in a book but a book of poems is so incrementally quickening, the jagged path of reading a book of poems oh shit AND with that added burden of needing to arrive on one book as being good as opposed to another after another so the poems have to stand up in a procession of processions. It’s like a film festival, a contest. So my first favorite perverse favorite failed as book because of the morals of the writer, the writer needed to feel sad at the end here and there. I think a book can’t stand a personal thought, ultimately, so if that is the kind of thought a book stands on then I can’t stand it. I’m emo but I’m not aesthetically pitched that way. A wash of feeling is great, that’s different. I’m pitched cold. Meaning reptiles change according to their environment. They don’t come with a human temperature. I like an aesthetics of sway, where feelings are stuff but don’t finally matter. Because we are assembling an edifice when we make a book. Or a road. A hospital can’t scream help, help. It must finally just stand. Be quite mute in fact.  However If I saw poems in one of these book hospitals that looked the same way all throughout, little teeny blocks of prose for instance I thought duh. Bad ride. I won’t run down all the ones I almost liked but the one I really liked was good because of this bouncing tension the poet never left. I would occasionally get knocked out of the car by one. This happened to me once as a child, about age two, I swear I’m brain damaged, it was the first of many such injuries. The baby me looking up as my family was driving away in our Dodge. When a poem drops you it has to be in keeping with the book’s larger system of holes. How much silence the poet is poking their meaning through. This poet was running a pretty tense line within the poem and without. Some poems shut neatly. I was holding my breath towards the end of this reading this morning. I went to bed in despair because my hand had to go back into the box and take from the rejected pile and see what lived still because my chosen four had died. This new one had been in a larger previous pile of chosen. Once I saw how I had been failed by the books of these poets, not their poems I was looking for a book that was free to have a subject if it cared, feelings if it didn’t want to stop me and keep me for hours, wringing our hands, a book that upholded a certain relation to abstraction i.e. nature. Nature is what I mean by abstraction I think. In that what we are is piles of equipment and there is all that out there swaying and I am interested in poetry that scrambles it somehow so that the inside is out and the outside in in a pattern that I know a little but actually I’ve never seen this before until I’m in it. A book I miss and will pick up gladly and write a blurb. What will it say about language this book. I think language is a means but this book tips its hat to that. The poem isn’t what is. But how it says so somehow. And keeping that something up for a while. All day long I’ve been hearing this tractor.


So the hand is out of the box, the contest is done. My girlfriend seemed really creeped out yesterday or was it the day before by my drawing.. It looked like the drawing, not of a child she said but of someone who hadn’t been drawing for a while. And that made me sad.  I made a scribble on an index card and took a photo of that but it’s not going to help. 

Originally Published: August 3rd, 2009

Eileen Myles was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and was educated in Catholic schools, graduated from the University of Massachusetts-Boston, and moved to New York City in 1974 to be a poet. They gave their first reading at CBGB's and then gravitated to St. Mark's church where they studied with Ted...