Eileen Myles

Eileen Myles

A Poem Says 'I Want'

“I think a poem really is a statement of desire.” Meet the legendary American poet, writer – and homosexual icon – Eileen Myles. In this video, she discusses the innate power of poetry and how to address the absence of the female genitalia.

Myles argues that ironically the word ‘pussy’ has become more political than ‘president’, as it “represents an assertion that female reality is a human reality”: “Whenever I’ve been someplace where Tampax is free – is part of what’s in the bathroom – I think, well, that’s a culture that’s acknowledging the human fact that women bleed, that menstruation is simply as real as toilet paper.” Removing basic things such as female sanitation is “violent and deeply political” – you’re rendering women invisible, just as women’s genitalia is invisible: “The pussy is abandoned. If I don’t say it, who will?”

“There are so many ways in which my humanity has never been there, and that sends a really loud message.” Myles wants to normalise her position by “acting like it’s in the world, maybe even more than it’s in the world.” Rather than writing specifically about e.g. being a lesbian, she writes about the state of things as she experiences them. However, it’s also a requirement for her that her work is utopian: “What I get to do as an artist is start creating the world I want to live in.”

It wasn’t until her twenties that Myles realised that writing poetry – to engage in the powerful “profane act” act of changing the order of words – was what she was supposed to do, and she describes becoming a poet as “a default position.” In continuation of this, she feels that poems contain a “cultural ability” and reflect the “evolving recipe of how to speak in a kind of American that is mine.” The words she uses – including swear-ing – echo all the places she’s been and defines who will listen and who won’t: “What excites me is to think that what I’m presenting is a lot of codes together.”

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 and co-produced by: Roxanne Bagheshirin Lærkesen
Produced by: Roxanne Bagheshirin Lærkesen and Christian Lund
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2017

Supported by Nordea-fonden

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