The Latest from Eileen Myles or Sometimes Confused, but Always in Love

wave books . 2012


So, who the hell is Joan Larkin? I analyze the dedication to the first component of Eileen’s two-fold release, Snowflake, from Wave Books one more time before throwing it down on the floor. My fingers return to the keys. Type. Type. Type. New Google Search: J-O-A-N L-A-R-K-I-N.

Internet leads me through pictures of Kristen Stewart and then to a brunette named Larkin who changed her last name to Jett, which I download onto my computer.

I don’t give a damn ‘bout my reputation
You’re living in the past, it’s a new generation

I shake my hips at my desk and type. Type. Type. I don’t think this is the same Joan Larkin that Myles dedicates Snowflake to accordingly. Pause, then click and scroll, click and scroll. I’m off on a whole other journey now streaming Youtube videos, downloading poems, exploring the varying incarnations of Larkin. An hour slips away, and I’m only at the dedication of Eileen’s book. I haven’t even cracked a full page. I accidentally got lost in Larkin. She high-jacked my time, and now I’m worn out from the glowing overhaul of information erupting from my computer screen. I shut it down, and re-open the actual book of poems by Eileen:

and later on the
about tango
and joan
L Tango Larkin
what’s not technology
what’s not seeing
an arm to say
I hold the
line I hold
the day
I watch the snowflake

So, Larkin is the music?
So, Larkin is in New Jersey?
So, Larkin is on my mind and changing with each click of the keys.
So, who cares? Larkin is a figure in Eileen’s poem, and that should be enough.

Oh, Internet!

There was an interview a while ago on NPR discussing this very thing– the Google interrupter. It pretty much asserted, and I’m loosely paraphrasing, that it’s a real drag when someone uses technology to answer a question posed by a group, that the real fun of social conversation is flawed human engagement or guessing, not the right answer.

In other words, my Google search for Joan Larkin takes me outside of Eileen’s book, splinters the experience, and if I search for Larkin on my smartphone in the middle of a wine and cheese party, say, instead of asking the person next to me for her opinion, it can also hinder social growth.

So, what the hell are we going to do? Resist the future and throw our Internets down the toilet? No, but if technology disrupts, then I don’t know, maybe it’s poetry’s responsibility to show us the art or beauty in the disruption, to show us the surrealism of our own time and place, and this is what Eileen’s collection of poems does for me, especially when she writes:

the rain
is falling
a screen
I see
many of
I hear
a roar
what’s that
I asked
That’s the
he said

I don’t want to hold onto any specific Larkin. I just want to hand the line over to Eileen, let solid reasoning or answers fall by the wayside, and just enjoy rain falling through the screen, or the snowflake as it changes shape.

wave books . 2012


Joan Larkin writes:

Two hundred of us in the room
and none coughed or shuffled
or scraped a metal chair
as he said how he saw
clear sky spreading above him
and a thing like a lead band
that snapped and freed his chest.
I didn’t drift for once or argue
or make lists for later.

She describes a typical indoor poetry reading perfectly in this excerpt. However, Different Streets, the other component of Myles latest two-fold release is not dedicated to this Larkin or any other Larkin. So, this is the last time I am going to mention Larkin, I swear.

This other collection of poems is dedicated to Leopoldine Core, Eileen’s lover, and according to the press release from Wave Books, this installment thematically shifts from a technological distortion of time and space into that of a poet returning “to the familiar world of human connection” or as Eileen says:

I’m still
in the landscape
the numbers flip
the land is

In Colorado, I had a friend who lived with nothing in his house, but like a card table, an old typewriter, and two glasses for pouring whiskey. He was a poet and that’s how he wanted his creative lifestyle ordered up. Sparse. Fine. Live in 1966, smoke rolled cigarettes, stitch your books by hand and letter press that shit up.

I admired his stubbornness, and loved the space he preserved.

I mean, artistically, at what point do we surrender entirely to the computer, to punching numbers and code, instead of holding onto the past, holding onto the classical/tactile version of being a poet at work?

Does it even matter?

I eat a sandwich and check my email. Machine Project, an artistic/literary headquarters in Echo Park, sent out a notice:

It looks like the map we provided to the Poetry Hike with Eileen Myles has the potential to lead people astray. The hike will meet at Saturday April 7th at 2:45pm in the parking lot at the entrance to Ed Davis Park. To bypass any confusion which might arise from digital technologies, we’d like to provide you with some ye olde wordy directions . . .

The art of human relationships.

The writing of human experiences.

The sharing of both.

On the drive over there, I think maybe indoor readings are like giving birth in a hospital, like the organization is pushing it out of you, surrounding you, and it’s planned and it’s formal, like everyone is wearing gloves and keeping time.

Outdoor readings are like natural birth, like with midwives– and everything is a big fleshy mess, where the woman wobbles around moaning, then squats the baby out and practically has an orgasm, except the poem is the baby, and the orgasm is much more subtle.

Eileen writes:

It’s very hard
to hunt
from indoors
I’ll say that for
you. And
text is
at best
an attenuated
sound has
a range
of many desires
not just map.
I subscribe to the grandpa
bunny bunny school
of theory
I mean genesis

I don’t know.

I did watch Ricki Lake’s Business of Being Born the night before attending Eileen’s poetry hike, and started crying all weird, like I couldn’t believe I was a woman, like my body is an organism, like magical . . . so, maybe let’s not get too carried away with this comparison here . . . but still.

This is the truth. Eileen reads from her book in the middle of nowhere nature, no microphone, no introduction, no fancy bio. It’s just a poet squatting in the woods, with a bunch of us wearing big hats and sunglasses squatting back at her . . . and it was amazing– like the natural human state of how poetry can be shared, or, I’ll say it, should be shared. It’s not digital and it’s not about packing seats and shaking hands and shooting for that big tenured position in the sky either.

It’s raw. It’s personal. It’s quiet.

And you know, I think, this is the way I prefer to be with poetry. It might be hippy-dippy old fashioned. It might only reach ten local people willing to hike a trail, sweating and stopping every few minutes to hear poems read aloud from an actual book, but that might just be the point.

It’s important to preserve and pay homage to the artistic concepts we inherited– to the dream of poet as a humble lost literary figure, in performance, craft, or both.

Eileen explains:

of the world. Last
night in “Different
Streets” which I didn’t
bother to write I made
the point that the two places
are connected and it’s great
where you are too

The humanity behind sharing poetry will always be more interesting than poetry itself.

Eileen’s writing might structurally bend and fracture to reflect the technological times, but it’s intrinsic thumping heart embodies poetry’s wayfarer past.

Between these two collections is where we meet. In the middle of a passage. Sometimes confused, but always in love.

This is why Snowflake / Different Streets is worth checking out.


Reviewed by Stacy Elaine Dacheux


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