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What Happens When You Contain The Flame? An interview with Eileen Myles


I first read Eileen Myles while in the process of uprooting myself from the place I’d grown up, along with it everything that, at the time was familiar to me. I was desperately searching for Something Else but I didn’t yet have the language to really articulate what that was. And part of that was being queer, part of it was poetry, mostly it was leaving a small town on the East Coast, for Good, and it was painful; I was trying to distill that essential element that felt so central to my being and yet I wasn’t really sure what it was.

Myles herself left Boston for New York to become a poet in the 1970s, something which seems totally wild yet at the same time relatable to so many of us. Bringing together a career which spans several decades last summer saw the release of I Must Be Living Twice: New and Selected Poems 1975-2014 alongside Chelsea Girls, in print for the first time in the UK through Serpents Tail. I met with Eileen before her reading at the Royal Geographical Society to talk about the new collection, fame and the implications of branding our work as Feminist. I’ve been sitting on this transcript since last summer, after an edited version appeared in Orlando magazine (thanks Philomena) wondering how I could use this Raw Material, the words Eileen actually spoke, and directed at me, in response to my rather paltry questions. Last weekend I met Hannah Levene at Glasgow zine fest. We were tabling next to each other and got talking about Eileen, after both hearing her read earlier in the year. I was like Hannah, have you read Dodie Bellamy and Hannah was like yeah I just wrote my MA thesis on her, the rest of the day is pretty much a blur. So thanks Hannah for being there and doing what you do, also for contributing a piece to this zine.