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MYLES, EILEEN (1949- ) Eileen Myles's writing is firmly established within the lineage of the new YORK school. Equally vital is her prominence as a high-profile lesbian poet of the late 20th century. She also claims a range of other major influences, including Christopher Isherwood and Hart crane. Yet Myles's work is independent and original. Her poetry is written in open form (see prosody and free verse), using a conversational style with brief, columnar lines. Public intent underscores her work. She communicates openly about intimate and personal subject matter, and she manages to revitalize her subjects. Myles upholds her statement, "I've always thought a poet should think big, not small" (qtd. in Richard 26), through constant writing and her efforts to reach audiences and unite multiple communities.
Born, raised, and educated in and near Boston, Massachusetts, Myles moved to New York City in 1974. Her first collection of poems, The Irony of the Leash, was published in 1978. She was personal assistant to James schuyler and artistic director of the St. Mark's Poetry Project during the 1980s (see poetry institutions). Myles has written poetry, fiction, drama, and book and art reviews; she is widely anthologized and has also edited several lit erary anthologies. In 1992 she engineered a political campaign and was a write-in candidate for president of the United States in 28 states. She has received many honors, including National Endowment for the Arts grants (1989 and 1995) and two Lambda Book Awards, for The New Fuck You (1995) and School of Fish (1997).
In "How I Wrote Certain of My Poems" (1991), Myles explains that, for her, "life is a rehearsal for the poem" and that she has an obsession with culture (201). Rock'n'roll and the spirit of freedom prevalent in the 1960s provided Myles with permission to forge ahead according to her own inclinations as an artist. In her book 1969, Myles writes about being at the Woodstock Festival and hearing Jimi Hendrix: "His 'Star Spangled Banner' was the end of America for me. We were through with it" (55-56). Her writing is reality based, playful, and provocative, and she always addresses important human concerns. In the poems Myles personifies herself as a gamut of selves. She is both an immigrant, who explains she was part of "a generation of people who went to / the bars on 7th street and drank" ("Holes" ), and a member of the Kennedy clan, who suggests, "I am not / alone tonight because / we are all Kennedys" ("An American Poem" ). Myles is confidently attendant to her immediate surroundings; writing and daily life in New York City, including its inequities and banalities, are deeply connected for her. Her writing is genuine, clear, and purposeful. She is assured in her mission as an active and socially activist poet who characteristically exposes significant human vulnerabilities.
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