On October 1, 2018, the Writer’s House and F&M welcomed Hausman Lecturer and celebrated poet and author, Eileen Myles. Myles is the author of more than 20 books, including several collections of poetry. They read not only selected poems from some of their collections, but bookended the event with two poetic essays.
After listening to their reading and to their answers during the Q&A session at the end of the event, it became abundantly clear that poetry, for them, is a feeling. Their poems stem from moments, and the emotions within those moments. Their poems, once they’re finished, take on a life of their own. They become separate, living, breathing things. When an audience member asked if Myles ever knows when a poem is finished, they said that the poem will ultimately tell you when you’re done writing it.
As a student of poetry, I’d read one of their collections before going to the reading, and one of the things that this event really did for me was show me the person behind the poems I’d read. One of the things that’s true of Myles’ work--whether it’s read aloud or silently--is that their poems feel organic. They feel like an extension of a human being. During this event, it became clear that one of the reasons they felt this way is because Myles’ works are so heavily inspired by people and moments in their life. They have developed a poetic style that strips a narrative down to its most fundamental elements. As a writer of prose (and now of poetry), I was deeply impressed, inspired, and more than a little envious.
One of the biggest things I took away from Myles’ reading was that poems--and writing in general--is shaped by your life. It’s shaped by where you live, how you spend your time, the people that surround you, how they make you feel, etc. It’s all simply a matter of capturing those things on the page. Of course your style will change and evolve, and there will be works that you revisit with fondness and those that you dread seeing again. But, in the end, life can be poetry. You just have to find it.
That’s what Eileen Myles showed me.
Samantha Friedlander '20 is a Writers House student staff member.