A few weeks ago I met up with Eileen Myles in the East Village to talk about the most recent book she’s published—Inferno—in the long line of titles that chart her prolific career. She’s considered a “rock star poet” and she writes “poet’s novels” and her live readings are like music concerts and all the new young queer writers look at her with a sense of awe and gratitude. I learned about Myles after reading Michelle Tea (who thanks her for “being the north star” in Rose of No Man’s Land), and was stunned and thrilled to comprehend the liberation of “being allowed” to write about queer life.
Somehow, prior to knowing that Myles existed, it had seemed forbidden to write gay narratives and it was as though a door was opened. One could argue that Myles opened that door for all of us, but she’s also important because she transcends any kind of political niche of “queer writing” and simply writes undeniably good poetry and prose.
It was a great time in the bustling cafe. She’s multi-talented- not only a writer but an encyclopedia, rattling off every existing name of any other creative person or concept or ideal that at the moment would be relevant to the conversation topic. She means what she says and clearly loves what she does. Meeting her in person made me excited and a little sad; I think she might be one of the last iconic writerly writers, at least in the New York East Village sense of the term. Her aesthetic is Writer, her glasses are Writer, the café was Writer.
She writes poems, reviews, prose, she teaches and performs, she is all over New York City and has seen the city evolve over decades. She writes about her life with merciless honesty, utter confidence, and poetic cadence. She writes to read aloud, and it is very metropolitan, raw, and classic. In a now fast-paced, mainstream publishing world of gloss, chick lit, and overall well-packaged carefulness, she is the real deal- a quintessential New York Writer.