Poet Profile: Eileen Myles


Eileen Myles has been writing poetry, prose, and criticism for the last thirty years. She’s published more than twenty books, but only recently did she find a wider audience after the reissue of Chelsea Girls (an autobiographical account of her explosive adolescence).

A recent profile in the New York Times has a theory why: “The gritty, idealistic outsiders of New York’s creative scenes in the late ’70s — their era’s music, art and general sense of freedom — provided an antidote to the homogeneity of today’s pop culture, and few writers captured that romantic rawness quite like Myles.”

Eileen thinks the main differences is that now we realize that “everybody’s queer — everybody’s wrongly shaped for a culture that requires conformity.” Eileen’s work speaks to that, and has always spoken to that, even when that idea was much less popular than it is today.

About her poetry, Eileen Myles said, “When I’m writing the poem, I feel like I have to close my eyes. I don’t mean literally, but you invite a kind of blindness and that’s the birth of the poem. Writing is all performance. Something’s passing through … The performance is us writing what’s using us, remarking upon it.”

In honor of National Poetry Month, we’re printing a poem of Eileen’s below.


Our Happiness

was when the
lights were

the whole city
in darkness

& we drove north
to our friend’s
yellow apt.
where she had
power & we
could work

later we stayed
in the darkened
apt. you sick
in bed & me
writing ambitiously
by candle light
in thin blue

your neighbor had
a generator &
after a while
we had a little
bit of light

I walked the
dog & you
were still
a little bit

we sat on a stoop
one day in the
late afternoon
we had very little
money. enough for
a strong cappuccino
which we shared
sitting there &
suddenly the
city was lit.