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Eileen Myles: "Now is an amazing moment for writing"


At the Verso blog, Ray Filar chats with Eileen Myles about Trump’s art-funding cuts and the vibrancy of queer writing today. Myles also explains why their early published work so often took the form of apparent documentation of queer life. Here’s an excerpt:

RF: Much of your writing - in Chelsea Girls, for example - acts as a record of what happens in your life. To what extent are you aiming just to chronicle events, and to what extent are you trying to put something of queerness or dykeness into your work?

EM: It’s both, and the latter. It was the only life I had, so I didn’t have another optional life to write about. I wanted the camera angle to be wide on the life that we were in. I didn’t want to act as if I was selecting this and not that – what’s interesting is that there’s so much that’s not in there too, for various reasons. At the time I felt like there was something heroic, because we were living this particular dyke life that I had not seen anywhere. I saw it everywhere around me, but there were absolutely no representations of it. It felt like the most radical kind of censorship, to say, we didn’t exist.

It’s mundane to say I was necessarily needing to make representations of queer life, but the thing was, in a way I felt that about all my lives: there was poverty, there was femaleness, there was queerness, there was poetry – being poets at that absolute moment. And the moment was being copied and being distributed, and I knew that at the time.

I knew then it was really important to record these lives exactly as lived. We felt fragile as ourselves. We felt endangered. We felt physically endangered, endangered through drugs and alcohol, endangered through… it was crazy and great and fragile. That was beautiful to record.

Image of Eileen Myles via the Verso blog.