Eileen Myles

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Eileen Myles
Eileen Myles at the 2008 Brooklyn Book Festival.jpg
Born (1949-12-09) December 9, 1949 (age 67)
Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.
Occupation writer, poet, performer
Genre poetry

Eileen Myles (born December 9, 1949) is an American poet and writer who has produced more than twenty volumes of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, libretti, plays, and performance pieces over the last three decades.[1] Novelist Dennis Cooper has described Myles as "one of the savviest and most restless intellects in contemporary literature."[2] In 2012 she received a Guggenheim Fellowship to complete Afterglow (a memoir), which gives both a real and fantastic account of a dog's life.[3]

Life and career[edit]

Early life and education[edit]

Eileen Myles was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on December 9, 1949,[4][5] to a family with a working-class background.[6] She attended Catholic schools in Arlington, Massachusetts, and graduated from UMass Boston in 1971.[7]

Myles moved to New York City in 1974 with the intention of becoming a poet.[5] In New York she participated in writing workshops held at St. Mark's Poetry Project, which promoted the idea of the "working artist," a pragmatic notion that Myles found appealing given her background;[citation needed] there she studied with Alice Notley, Ted Berrigan, Paul Violi, and Bill Zavatsky,[5] and was given a template for creating art in the context of an urban community.[citation needed] There, Myles first met the poet Allen Ginsberg, whom she admired and who became the subject of several of her poems and essays.[8][9] In 1979 she worked as an assistant to the poet James Schuyler.[7]

Artistic director of St. Mark's[edit]

In 1984 Myles was hired as the artistic director of St. Mark's Poetry Project,[7] which, she has stated,[where?] gave her the opportunity to rethink the institution that influenced her early work.[citation needed] In this period,[when?] Myles dealt with the cuts to the NEA art budget occurring during the Reagan years; Myles' energies focused on broadening the aesthetic and cultural range of the St. Mark's Poetry Project.[citation needed] Her leadership of the Project represented a generational shift away from the church’s base, which until then been run by the second generation members of the New York School.[citation needed] Program Coordinators in this period were Patricia Spears Jones, and Jessica Hagedorn, and Myles invited Alice Notley and Dennis Cooper to teach.[citation needed] Charles Bernstein ran the lecture series, Chris Kraus, Marc Nasdor, and Richard Elovich coordinated performance, Tim Dlugos and James Ruggia edited the Newsletter.[citation needed] During her tenure at St. Mark's, Myles performed "An American Poem" for the first time at P.S. 122.[citation needed]

Politics and teaching[edit]

In 1991-1992 Myles conducted an “openly female” write-in campaign for the office of President of the United States,[10] unsuccessfully, though she campaigned in 28 states, and via MTV and other media outlets (where the number of votes she received is unreported).[11]

Beginning in 2002, Myles began serving as a Professor of Writing at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD); she directed the writing program for five years before she left.[2] UCSD funded the research and travel grant that enabled the creation of Inferno (2010), as well as Hell,[when?] an opera composed by Michael Webster, for which Myles wrote the libretto.[12] Since leaving UCSD in 2007, Myles has been a Visiting Writer at Bard College,[when?][citation needed] Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University,[when?] Washington University,[when?][citation needed] University of Montana-Missoula,[2] Columbia’s School of the Arts,[when?] and New York University.[when?][7]

In 2016, Myles endorsed Hillary Clinton for president in a Buzzfeed piece entitled Hillary Clinton: The Leader You Want When The World Ends.[13]

Written works[edit]


By her own account, Myles moved from Boston to New York in 1974 "to be a poet,"[5] where she became associated with a group of poets at St. Mark’s Poetry Project.[14]:184 Myles's first book, The Irony of the Leash, was run off by Jim Brodey on the mimeograph machine in the office of St. Mark's Poetry Project in 1978.[citation needed]

In 1977 and 1979, Myles published issues of dodgems, a literary magazine, a title referring, in the vernacular of Great Britain, to bumper cars,[15] specifically those of Revere Beach, MA.[citation needed] The title is said to serve as a metonym for the collision of aesthetic differences that characterized the poetry scene of that time.[according to whom?][citation needed] The dodgems issues featured poems by John Ashbery, Barbara Guest, Charles Bernstein, as well as a letter from Lily Tomlin and an angry note from a neighbor;[citation needed] both issues are referenced in the book, A Secret Location on the Lower East Side—Adventures in Writing: 1960–1980, (which also describes St. Mark's),[14] and were exhibited in vitrines in the Library's 1998 show on the same subject.[citation needed]

Myles's next collection, A Fresh Young Voice From the Plains (1981), earned her first major review, by Jane Bosveld in Ms. (magazine).[16][verification needed] Not Me (1991) is Myles's most popular collection of poetry.[citation needed] It contains Myles work, "An American Poem,"[17] in which she fictionalizes her identity and claims to be a "Kennedy", and comfortably addresses politics in the work.[citation needed] She first performed the work at P.S. 122 in New York City, during her tenure at St. Mark's.[citation needed] Since then "An American Poem" has been filmed and shown in film festivals all over the world, screening in New York and other major cities.[citation needed] It has been included, in translation, in German, Russian, and Italian anthologies of American writing.[citation needed] The trajectory of "An American Poem" is documented in Myles's novel Inferno (2010).[according to whom?][citation needed]

Myles produced Maxfield Parrish/early and new poems (1995), a collection of both new and selected poems on the theme of the surreality of sex.[citation needed] In the same year, Myles co-edited The New Fuck You: Adventures in Lesbian Reading (1995) with Liz Kotz, which is described as having a multi-genre approach and postmodern focus on reading rather than identity,[citation needed] and which is said[according to whom?] to have offered something different from mainstream gay and lesbian poetry anthologies of the 1990s.[citation needed] Soon after, School of Fish (1997) appeared, the first work wherein Myles's dog, Rosie is featured,[citation needed] where Rosie served as a second camera in the poem's field of vision.[according to whom?][citation needed]

Myles published Skies (2000), a project begun in Provincetown, Massachusetts, where the poet described the sky becoming "a new character in my life."[18] The book is framed by a transcript of a panel at The Schoolhouse Gallery in Provincetown, Massachusetts featuring Helen Miranda Wilson, Frances Richard, John Kelly, Molly Benjamin, and Jack Pierson, who each spoke about their own relation to the sky.[citation needed] On My Way (2001)[clarification needed] concludes with an essay about speech and class, "The End of New England."[19]

Snowflake / Different Streets (2012) uses the technique of dos-à-dos binding to combine two distinct collections of poetry in the same physical book.[20] As Ian Bodkin writes in his review of the work, Myles' poems "navigat[e] the ever-insular landscape of our technological culture that invades moments of quiet thought" in Snowflake, then "offers a sense of return to the people and places of intimacy, connections that bring her back to this world" in different streets.[21]


Though Myles's primary intention was to be a poet, she has stated that she was also moved by the New Journalism of the sixties and seventies and the art writing tradition by poets of the New York School.[citation needed] In the 1980s, Myles began to publish personal journalism, book reviews, and art reviews.[citation needed] Early columns appeared in the Poetry Project Newsletter;[citation needed] her essay "I Hate Mimeo"[citation needed] called for an end to the same publishing format in which her essay appeared.[citation needed] In the 1990s she wrote a monthly column in Paper Magazine.[citation needed]

Myles' early book and theater reviews appeared in New York Native, Outweek, and Out (magazine),[citation needed] and she was a notable figure on the poetry and queer art scene of the 1980s and 1990s on the Lower East Side.[citation needed] Later, Myles would publish essays and other article in the Village Voice, The Nation, Artforum, Parkett, and Art in America.[citation needed]

In 2007 Myles received an Warhol/Creative Capital grant, which funded her first collection of nonfiction, The Importance of Being Iceland/travel essays in art (2007).[citation needed] The title essay from this collection, "Iceland," has been described[by whom?] as part travel essay, part personal essay, and part inquiry into the nature of how landscape and writing affect each other.[citation needed]


Myles's first collection of stories, Chelsea Girls (1994) features "Bread and Water," the oldest story in the collection, and an account of life in the East Village in the late 1970s and early 1980s.[citation needed] Raymond Foye called it "The quintessential memoir of the Lower East Side."[this quote needs a citation] Myles has said[where?] that she imagined the story as a literal recording of life,[citation needed] and so began her characteristic practice of dropping conventional punctuation and capitalization.[citation needed] In "Chelsea Girls," the title story, Myles chronicles her time as the assistant to poet James Schuyler in the Chelsea Hotel; their intergenerational exchange has been the subject of scholarship by Dianne Chisholm and Jose Munoz.[22][self-published source?]

Myles's second full-length work, Cool for You: a nonfiction novel (2000) catalogs abject institutional spaces of an "insider," in opposition to the male artist as an "outsider."[23] Among these spaces are school, family, and various bad jobs;[original research?] the extreme insider of the book is Myles’s maternal grandmother Nellie Riordan Myles,[original research?][citation needed] who spent the last 17 years of her life in a state mental hospital in Massachusetts.[original research?][citation needed] Also included in Cool for You’s inventory is an imaginary one—a chapter that describes the solar system from the perspective of a ten-year-old version of Myles herself, Myles's first foray into fantasy writing.[citation needed] Cool for You received widespread recognition and was reviewed in The New York Times,[24] The San Francisco Chronicle,[citation needed] and The Nation.[25]

Inferno (a poet's novel) (2010) fictionalizes the life of a poet very similar to Myles, and mirrors the structure of Dante's Divine Comedy.[citation needed] It was awarded a 2011 Lambda Award for Lesbian Fiction.[citation needed] On September 29, 2015, HarperCollins reissued Myles's out-of-print novel, Chelsea Girls.[26]


In 1979 Myles founded the Lost Texans Collective with Elinor Nauen and Barbara McKay. That year the group produced Joan of Arc a spiritual entertainment and would produce Patriarchy, a play in 1980.

Later solo performances include “Leaving New York (1989), Life (1991), and Summer in Russia (1996), which were performed at P.S. 122, Judson Church.

Myles's later plays, Feeling Blue parts 1, 2, and 3; Modern Art; and Our Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, written for Alina Troyano were all produced at WOW Cafe and P.S. 122.

Since the early eighties Myles has toured and read her own work extensively. In late 1988 she traveled with poet and memoirist Jim Carroll on a tour sponsored by Lila Acheson Wallace. In the nineties Myles toured Germany with Kathy Acker, Lynne Tillman, Richard Hell, and Chris Kraus. Since 1997 Myles has frequently toured with LGBT performance group Sister Spit.[27][28]

Critical reception[edit]

Myles's first book, The Irony of the Leash (1978), was produced on the mimeograph machine at St. Mark's Poetry Project.

Pulitzer prize-winning poet John Ashbery has described Myles's work as making one "uncomfortable and awake... chanting softly and beautifully the harsh if humorous realities that combine to make whatever life a poet can piece together today."[29] She has been called “the rock star of modern poetry” by BUST Magazine and “a cult figure to a generation of post-punk female writer-performers,” by Holland Cotter of the New York Times.[30]

In a recent review of Snowflakes/different streets in LA Review of Books, Brian Teare complicates these readings of Myles's persona in relation to her body of writing:

Though the book contains plenty of autobiographical detail concerning Myles’ life as a writer and lesbian, such details remain themselves, no longer coalescing into myth. Instead, the book’s saturated with this desire to gesture toward “it,” to somehow get fragmentary words to capture some essential aspect of “the thing,” and Myles’ genius lies in making the grand gesture that includes the trivial detail and the sublime at once, their juxtaposition underscoring how we are small and made large by connection, paradoxically isolate and dependent.[31]

Inferno has been described by Craig Epplin as representing,

her attempt at sketching alternative sorts of existence in common. She does so not through simple prescription, but rather by modeling the act of assembly itself... 'I was addition and subtraction,' [Myles] writes in one scene set in a New York apartment, 'sunlight, bumpy white walls, millions of windows, Cafe Bustelo, my feet...' (The list goes on.) This inventory, at once abstract and radically concrete, involves more than just what surrounds the speaker. It’s conceived, rather, as what she was. There wasn’t a person in a room, in other words. There was a complex of person and room together: the sun shining down plus the walls plus a coffee can plus feet plus more.[32]

Fellowships, grants, awards[edit]

  • New York State Creative Artist's Public Services Grant, (poetry) 1980
  • The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Performance/Inter-Arts Grant, (Modern Art) 1989
  • Fellow, Djerassi Foundation, 1994
  • Rex Foundation Grant, (The Grateful Dead) 1994
  • New York State Council on the Arts Theater Commission, with performer Carmelita Tropicana for Our Sor Juana, 1994
  • Ludwig Voegelstein Award, 1995
  • Franklin Furnace Performance Fund, 1995
  • The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA/CEC) ArtsLink Grant, 1995
  • The Fund for Poetry, 1988, 1990, 1996
  • Fellow, The Blue Mountain Arts Center, NY, 1997
  • Lambda Book Award, 1995, 1998
  • Bucknell Art Museum Residency, for Hide & Seek, 1998
  • New York Foundation for the Arts, Poetry, 1999
  • Foundation for Contemporary Performance Touring Grant, 2001
  • Muir College Enrichment Grant, for Hell, 2004
  • Research and Travel Grant, University of California, San Diego, 2004
  • University of California Humanities Center Grant, for Hell, 2004
  • The University of California's Institute for Research in the Arts (UCIRA),for Hell, 2004
  • Warhol Foundation/Creative Capital, Arts Writers Grant, 2007
  • Fellow, The MacDowell Colony, 1991, 1996, 2009
  • Shelley Award, Poetry Society of America, 2010
  • Virginia Center for Creative Arts, Fellow, 2011
  • Lambda Book Award for Lesbian Fiction, (Inferno) 2011
  • Guggenheim Fellowship, Afterglow, (memoir), 2012
  • The Clark Prize for Excellence in Arts Writing, 2015


  • The Irony of the Leash. Jim Brodey Books, 1978.
  • Polar Ode (with Anne Waldman). New York: Dead Duke Books, 1979.
  • A Fresh Young Voice from the Plains. New York: Power Mad Press, 1981.
  • Sappho's Boat. Los Angeles: Little Caesar, 1982.
  • Bread and Water (stories). New York: Hanuman Books, 1986.
  • 1969 (fiction). New York: Hanuman Books, 1989.
  • Not Me. New York: Semiotext(e), 1991.
  • Chelsea Girls (fiction). Santa Rosa, California: Black Sparrow Press, 1994.
  • Maxfield Parrish: Early and New Poems. Santa Rosa, California: Black Sparrow, 1995.
  • The New Fuck You: adventures in lesbian reading (co-edited with Liz Kotz). New York: Semiotext(e), MIT Press, 1995.
  • School of Fish, Santa Rosa, California: Black Sparrow Press, 1997.
  • Cool for You (novel). New York: Soft Skull Press, 2000.
  • Skies: Poems. Santa Rosa, California: Black Sparrow Press, 2001.
  • on my way. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Faux Press, 2001.
  • Tow (with drawings by artist Larry C. Collins). New York: Lospeccio Press, 2005.
  • Sorry, Tree (poems). Seattle: Wave Books, 2007.
  • The Importance of Being Iceland (art writing). New York: Semiotext(e), MIT Press, 2009.
  • Inferno (a poet's novel). New York: OR Books, 2010.
  • Snowflake/different streets. Seattle: Wave Books, 2012.
  • I Must Be Living Twice: New and Selected Poems 1975-2014. New York: Ecco Press, 2015.


  1. ^ WITW Staff (2015). "Art into Life: "Transparent" Creator Jill Soloway's New Love Sprang From a Storyline" (Women in the World venture). The New York Times (December 10). Retrieved 23 January 2016. Myles is the recipient of the 2015 Clark Prize for Excellence in Arts Writing. She has produced more than twenty volumes of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, libretti, plays, and performance pieces over the last three decades. 
  2. ^ a b c Blake, Sharon (2013). "Pitt Hosts Renowned Author and Poet Eileen Myles for Literary Reading March 21". University of Pittsburgn News Service (March 18,). Retrieved 23 January 2016. Myles has been described by novelist Dennis Cooper as “one of the savviest and most restless intellects in contemporary literature.” She is the author of 19 books of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry... 
  3. ^ "John Simon Guggenheim Foundation - Current". gf.org. Retrieved 24 January 2016. 
  4. ^ "December 9th". eileenmyles.net. Retrieved 2016-01-17. [better source needed]
  5. ^ a b c d "Eileen Myles". The Poetry Foundation. Retrieved 2013-08-23. 
  6. ^ Lerner, Ben. "Eileen Myles in Conversation with Ben Lerner". Literary Hub. 
  7. ^ a b c d "Eileen Myles on Poets.org". Poets.org. 
  8. ^ Myles, Eileen (October 8, 2010). "Repeating Allen". Poets.org. 
  9. ^ "Interview with Eileen Myles". Interview. Interview Magazine. 
  10. ^ "UCSD Literature Dept. faculty page". literature.ucsd.edu. 
  11. ^ "1992 Write-in Campaign for President: Eileen Myles". Eileenmyles.net. Retrieved 2013-03-05. 
  12. ^ Myles, Eileen (2010). "Eileen Myles: Workshop Productions of Hell". Santa Barbara, CA, USA: The University of California Institute for Research in the Arts. Retrieved 23 January 2016. About the Project: Workshop Productions of Hell was a collaborative project undertaken by Eileen Myles, Professor of Writing in the Literature Department at UCSD, and Los Angeles composer Michael Webster. The three main goals of the project were to enliven opera in America, to return poetry to a place of central importance in spectacle, and to investigate the conditions of speech post September 11. [permanent dead link]
  13. ^ "Hillary Clinton: The Leader You Want When The World Ends". BuzzFeed. Retrieved 2016-02-26. 
  14. ^ a b Clay, Steven & Rodney Phillips (1998). A Secret Location on the Lower East Side: Adventures in Writing, 1960-1980. New York, NY, USA: New York Public Library and Granary Books. pp. 39, 184, 223ff. St. Mark's... this country's premier venue for new and experimental poetries 
  15. ^ "R". thebrits.com. Retrieved 24 January 2016. 
  16. ^ Bosveld, Jane (1982). "Poetry in Short: A Fresh Young Voice from the Plains and Sappho's Boat". Ms. Magazine (print) (September). 
  17. ^ "An American Poem". poetryfoundation.org. Retrieved 24 January 2016. 
  18. ^ Brown, Susan Rand (October 8, 2015). "Counter Culture Poet Eileen Myles Reads in Provincetown". The Patriot Ledger. Retrieved August 21, 2016. 
  19. ^ Unknown (2002). Erik Sweet, ed. "Eileen Myles 'A review' for [of] Skies (Black Sparrow Press) [and] my way (Faux Press)". Tool a Magazine (September). Retrieved 23 January 2016. An earlier version of this citation indicated the author as 'Lori Quillen,' but this is not supported at the citation. 
  20. ^ Teare, Brian (August 24, 2012). "Everything Moves Close: New Poems by Eileen Myles". Los Angeles Review of Books. Retrieved August 21, 2016. 
  21. ^ Bodkin, Ian (2012). "Review...: Eileen Myles' Snowflake/different streets". 491 (April 26). Retrieved 23 January 2016. 
  22. ^ "Eileen Myles". Eileen Myles. Archived from the original on June 18, 2012. Retrieved 2013-03-05. [self-published source?]
  23. ^ Kellner, Amy (1998). "Eileen Myles, 1998 [interview]" (online). Index Magazine. Retrieved 23 January 2016. 
  24. ^ Powers, Ann (July 29, 2001). "Neverland and Beyond". New York Times. Retrieved August 21, 2016. 
  25. ^ Kraus, Chris. "Girls, Interrupted: Chris Kraus Reviews "Cool For You" by Eileen Myles". The Nation. Retrieved August 21, 2016. 
  26. ^ "After 19 Books and a Presidential Bid, Eileen Myles Gets Her Due". Vulture. Retrieved 2015-10-03. 
  27. ^ "Sister Spit - Meet the '97 Ladies!". Sister Spit official site. Retrieved 12 February 2016. 
  28. ^ Rathe, Adam. "Tea and Spit". Out. Out Magazine. Retrieved 12 February 2016. 
  29. ^ "Visiting Artist Lecture Series Presents Eileen Myles". Adminrecords.ucsd.edu. Retrieved 2013-03-05. 
  30. ^ "The Rumpus Interview With Poetry Rock Star Eileen Myles". The Rumpus.net. 2009-12-02. Retrieved 2013-03-05. 
  31. ^ Teare, Brian (2012). "Everything Moves Close: New Poems by Eileen Myles [Review of Snowflakes/different streets]" (online). Los Angeles Review of Books. Retrieved 23 January 2016. 
  32. ^ Epplin, Craig (2012). "Assemblage Required" (online). The New Inquiry (July 17). Retrieved 23 January 2016. 

External links[edit]