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To Start to Realize I Am My Scene: An Interview with Eileen Myles

By Harriet Staff


A terrific interview with Eileen Myles is up at Trop. Myles talks with K. Bradford about consciousness and class in poetry, the form living off the page (puppets!), her Guggenheim, Snowflake / different streets, and “post-identity,” among other subjects. An excerpt:

KB: So are you into post-identity? Do you want that for yourself or the world?

EM: What do you mean?

KB: America is very boxed in—identities are broken down into binaries of male and female, black and white, etc. Many of us are trying to push past that and evoke a fluidity. I connect to that in your work—your queerness is there and your gender variance (or whatever you like to call it) is there, but it’s a piece. It’s not just fluid, it’s like there are gears that are a part of something moving.

EM: When we talk about literature, there are tweets and there are three-volume novels. And, selected poems and collected poems and a poem. There are so many different packages for the same energy to travel through. I think post-identity is sort of a zen concept. You know like, “Wake up!” (Smacks hands with a sharp clap). What’s the identity of that moment? What’s the gender of that moment? There are spots where there is no identity whatsoever.

But by the nature of who I am or who any of us are we will need to be in groups that resemble us. It’s so crucial to have those identity groups where you gather and are reinforced by your conversations. And don’t live there. Something I’m really interested in is how queer identity is like an immigrant group. We need to find each other at various points to say, “God—Iceland!” But we don’t live in Iceland. I think “post” is a desire to have a little space, but I don’t think it’s a place where you get to stay.

We’re also quite fond of the talk around structure:

KB: There is a loose coolness to the way your poems travel on the page, you do this associative leaping where you travel through images and moments quickly, easily. This comes across when you read as well. There’s a cool, relaxed cadence that fits the structuring of your poems. Can you talk about this?

EM: It’s so amazing that we have these pulsing, rich, imaginary spaces. The thing that always seemed exciting to me about being a poet is you get to show how that space operates. I’m sort of offended by the term “stream of consciousness,” but indeed every consciousness is alive. One moves through thoughts and moves through the world and the day by sailing from one thought to the next. You know, in the same way that you don’t want to stand at a party and be trapped in a corner by somebody who wants to tell you everything that they’re thinking about you or about them. It’s like you want people to make selections. So learning to make those selections and to hopefully create a sense of moving through a lot of territory, slightly nimbly, is a real desire of mine for why I want to write.

I’ve given myself more permission and different kinds of permission over the years as I’ve become a more experienced reader in letting it sound more like how I might want it to sound. I don’t know what it sounded like when I first began writing poems. It’s changed. And I’ve gotten more permission to have more latitude in performing, and that’s been fun too. And to consciously even perform. In the same way that you might know that there’s silence between this stanza and that one. There’s silence between these two words. This is a fast poem, this is a slow poem. And to give myself permission to have that in front of people. Miming some appropriate way that people in my scene read poems. To start to realize I am my scene.

READ IT ALL, for sure.

Posted in Poetry News on Tuesday, January 15th, 2013 by Harriet Staff.