Eileen Myles Interview: Being a Poet in New York

“It was the only idea I had, it was the only bus there was. I had taken it, I had gotten off, I had landed.” The iconic American poet and writer Eileen Myles here reflects on coming to New York from Boston as a poet in the 1970s: “I was a good poet and I wasn’t afraid. I didn’t even know to be afraid, I just knew to be excited.”

“There were probably thirty people in the room, and I was one of those people.” Thinking back, Myles is shocked by the sense of proximity in the poet community back then – how all the great poets such as Allen Ginsberg and Robert Lowell were present and interacting: “We knew we were in history, but their relationships were right there.”

Coming to New York after having tried her luck in both Europe and San Francisco, Myles had an immense feeling of risk – and already having taken that risk: “By the time I got to New York I realised, it was over, I was stuck. Whatever this was, this was my life. I had made my decision.” She started working as a waitress in a bar, through which she got a low-rent apartment in the East Village: “Everybody in the neighbourhood quickly seemed to be either a poet or a musician.” What she also realised during that time – and which she still finds to be true – was that there was an inherent belief that “art was far away.” This also influenced Myles’ own way of thinking – like when the band on the 4th floor, which she thought “probably weren’t any good,” turned out to be the now world-famous rock band Blondie.

Eileen Myles (b. 1949) is an American poet, novelist, performer and art journalist, who has produced several volumes of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, libretti, plays and performance pieces over the last three decades. Her publications include ‘Afterglow’ (a dog memoir) (2017), ‘Inferno: A Poet’s Novel’ (2010), ’Skies’ (2001), ’Cool for You’ (2000) and ‘Chelsea Girls’ (1994, 2015). In 2015 ‘I Must Be living Twice. New and Selected Poems 1975-2014’ was published. Myles has received a wide range of awards and fellowships such as four Lambda Book Awards, the Shelley Award (Poetry Society of America) (2010), a Guggenheim Fellowship (2012) and The Clark Prize for Excellence in Arts Writing (2015). In 1977 Myles co-edited the feminist an-thology ‘Ladies Museum’ and in 1979 she was a founding member of the Los Texans Collective. From 1984-1986 Myles was the artistic director of St. Mark’s Poetry Project. Myles has toured all over the world since the early 1980s. She lives in Marfa, Texas and New York City. For more see: http://www.eileenmyles.com/

Eileen Myles was interviewed by the Danish poet Mette Moestrup in August 2017 in connection with the Louisiana Literature festival at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark.

Camera: Klaus Elmer, Mathias Nyholm, Simon Weyhe
Edited by: Roxanne Bagheshirin Lærkesen
Produced by: Roxanne Bagheshirin Lærkesen and Christian Lund
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2018

Supported by Nordea-fonden

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