Just to say quickly my man is Frankenstein, the creation of a pretty young woman dating an older poet, Percy Shelley. She, Mary, took a dare on a rainy weekend with the older guys in the mountains for a few days (Who can write the best ghost story? asked Byron) and came up with this one that does get more absurd as it goes along. But the main conception of it is that a man has created life from dead parts.
It was at a moment when everyone knew electricity could make a frog legs kick so why not this pile of meat think and run and kill. All sorts of things happen in this short novel that lots of people read in high school and I have read it for an extraneous research purpose but the great stray accomplishment of being a poet is always doing the right thing for the wrong reason. It’s like there’s always a lot of food falling off the plate of the apparent purpose and that feeds poetry quite often, that gutter, those scraps. Poetry is a hungry dog. The monster’s has gotten a lot of work already. Has appeared in two poems by now. Plus the vocabulary of the 19th c. feigning to be the 18th fills me with joy.
The dead for example are said to possess ‘manes,’ but what manes are in this context are the spirits of the dead. Isn’t that wildly suggestive when you think of hair. I think the monster’s hair may have been mentioned once or twice and it was wild and raggedy like the weather of the book but mostly I was moved by the mention of the monster’s heart. His feelings. It is after all a romantic book. Written by a woman. The monster upon his birth was scorned. His master pretty much screamed when he was born (not what he had in mind?) and was left to his own devices immediately upon this not so much birth, but more rightly his invention, his revival perhaps if the parts of many people coming back to life could be thought of as a single occasion, a party more or less. A legal term.
So the monster had desires as a party might for community and tenderness, a shared meal around the fire. The monster learned to acquire language through peeping from the outside of a house into the inner sanctum – by observing the sufferings and sweetness of a strife-ridden family. Who like the monster’s father also howled in disgust and terror when my man showed up, the monster.
It is so interesting that the creature is only known by the name of his creator, being either book or son. You wouldn’t have thought for a moment of anything so simple as daughter. Who would make that. Later we saw Viktor Frankenstein momentarily get the parts in order to make the monster a wife but it was too much to bear so he tore the second creature to bits and dumped them into the sea. The monster, alone till the end, except in mutual hatred with his dad, referred to himself sorrowfully at the end as an abortion. How old is that word, an unutterable one at this point in time.
Frankenstein as a book is all bad vibe.
Yet the monster’s feelings were way more pithy than his master’s -- whose life he was dying and succeeded in the end to destroy. I don’t know, I just thought the monster’s loneliness seemed natural and normal. The novel is one of those enormous cultural accidents where the wrong thing said in the right way is always coming alive again and again and is the best definition of classic. My man, Mary, hello!
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...