Wrapping it up on the plane and even if I’m doubling up and Harriet can’t use this piece – is double dipping ok on the last day of poet’s month – I’m thinking about the recent poem of mine which is a book. Maybe it’ll become a poem too though. I lost a computer a couple of years ago – it is documented in the Harriet archive of blogs back then and I just put that poetry book on the back burner. I had also lost my hard drive though happily those poems in some cases existed on the last computer and hard-drive. Yet I had unhappily also lost my little snap drive where some others might have been. A poet’s back burner is a long wide room. All my receipts and notebooks and scraps of paper towels and poems from workshops are the residents of the backburner. I am coming back from New Orleans today where I learned moment by moment about what it’s like to be coming back from a storm and I do not feel the loss of my computer actually lines up with what people in New Orleans lost. But I felt we were covering each other in away. The way musicians cover each other. It’s the deepest kind of homage I believe to say I will take that song on for a moment or two. So New Orleans sorrow feels a little bit mine at this moment while wrapping the thing with my poem up. Also since I’ve made a kind of private and social oath not to write poetry tomorrow I’m on the crevice of all sorts of silence and danger and loss where poetry stood and will stand forever I believe. It’s what we throw in; it’s what we do daily when we face the exuberant abyss of life. I am being grand. So I just couldn’t return to that book for a couple of years. I’ve been in something for a little while which I think of as the archive moment. I’m even imagining an art show, which is just a tiny wall of flyers, notes and receipts, and it’s called “What if I don’t sell my archive.” I think it would be pretty funny though it’s a poetry joke not an art world joke. I contend the two worlds are merging however at this time. Anyway certainly since 2002 when I was getting hired by UCSD and even earlier since Rodney Phillips curated a show at the New York Public Library called “A Secret Location on the Lower East Side” which is a fine concept and one I use continually (the show ended in 1980) because when I speak with younger people I tell them that the world stopped being local someplace in the 80s. First all the junky girls and faux junkies were walking around the East Village with crucifixes in their ears and then Madonna went on MTV and then girls all over the world were doing it and then style became only visual and you could not rely on the look to actually inform you as to who the person might be. Style was global and chosen not grown. Rodney asked me to be one of the “younger” people in the show I think along with Dennis Cooper and it was one of my fleeting experiences of being “younger.” I was never a beat but since increasingly all the beats are dead I am becoming described as a younger one. Or just one. Eventually one is only younger than death. And you imagine your dead friends, Ted Berrigan for example going “Not bad.” I begin to make jokes with this other company in mind. But I’m young. Younger than death. Younger than dead. Please use it. But the library had me seriously opening my file cabinets for the first time which began to be known as my “archive” and I pulled out a tiny notebook or two, a letter, a photo and began my existence in the vitrine. I thought oh I should sell this shit and conferred with an archivist friend who said wait. So that’s what I’m doing. Like Godot. When UCSD hired me I had to PROVE my ceevee so I had to find every little review (interestingly they didn’t care about the poems) I had said were published on my ceevee. It was a lot of dusty musty work. Done. And deeper in the archives I did go. And the whole mess was shipped to San Diego to be with me since I now had a house (wanna buy it?) and now nine years letter the whole mess exists in storage units in two states and is beginning to come home. When you get an academic job they are glad to ship everything you own but when you return to New York there’s no friendly institution footing the bill. Moi. I’m alive and I pay for me to return. Then though I was convinced Inferno (get it at orbooks.com) should get published first my Iceland book started coming onto my screen and it was essays, articles etc. and you’d think some of that work had been done because of the ceevee UCSD business but oh no that was merely xeroxing. When things are in one million formats – mimeo, typescript, dedicated word processor files – Smith Corona I hate you! and all the files of all the computers you’ve ever owned you are doing a lot of scanning, leg work, even making phone calls (!) and emailing. One reading I did (thanks Alex!) was on youtube so I was transcribing a reading of mine. Just think – what all this means about this book, my “poem” is that I’m not sure. In some cases I’m not sure about the line breaks, the drafts, all those things that poets value. I am using some different formats in this book – tape recorder and cell phone to name a few but it all adds up to a virtual book in many ways. The permanence of the book, its evidence of final choice and decisions is gone. It’s a Madonna book perhaps, pure style. It began to feel like my life’s work was my past. I don’t know. Is it? I rarely use question marks so you know I really mean it. When that was done I thought that is it. I mean until the selected which is as Netflix says in the queue. So to lost a book of poems essentially, all those files sitting there on my desk top and hard drive ready to be serenely organized at MacDowell where I was that summer. . . to do that is to be again standing in one’s home spinning, looking at boxes from the Container store, next black boxes full of notes and scraps and to know that files of this stuff exist somewhere. And notebooks. I don’t need to tell you all the places I had these poems I’ll say it archived. Is everything in the world archived now. Is that the thing that happened after Madonna. One brief moment of the present and everything else the past, almost instantly in the gigantic file waiting to be destroyed by an errant asteroid. Phew what a relief. Didn’t sell my archive cause I am just a speck. Not even. So two years later, this year in the past few months I am so sorry to have dragged everyone, anyone crazy enough to read this, through these thoughts of saving and losing which collectively is adding up to something instantaneous and fleeting which I think constitutes Eileen’s poem. Here it is. My new book will be called Snowflake incidentally because it’s only on the melt. Here’s a tiny poem that didn’t make the cut:
take it out.
Eileen Myles was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1949, was educated in Catholic schools, graduated from the University of Massachusetts-Boston in 1971, and moved to New York City in 1974 to be a poet. She gave her first reading at CBGB's, and then gravitated to St. Mark's church where she...