Eileen Myles, an interview and a poem

Eileen-Myles-WEBIt was with great satisfaction, and not without amusement that I read several recent interviews with and profiles of Eileen Myles, a poet who has always been much beloved, but who has only recently become the kind of poet profiled by the New York Times. I am always happy to see poets given big profiles in the mainstream press; right after this, I found another profile in The New Yorker. In this brief interview, from the Talk column in the Sunday Magazine, there was so much to love:

Poetry always, always, always is a key piece of democracy. It’s like the un-Trump: The poet is the charismatic loser. You’re the fool in Shakespeare; you’re the loose cannon. As things get worse, poetry gets better, because it becomes more necessary.

Which is not unlike what Ursula LeGuin said recently in the speech she gave upon receiving an award from the National Book Awards. Myles’ hyperbole is funny:

I think it would be a great time for men, basically, to go on vacation. There isn’t enough work for everybody. Certainly in the arts, in all genres, I think that men should step away. I think men should stop writing books. I think men should stop making movies or television. Say, for 50 to 100 years.

Myles ran for President a while back, as the first “openly female” candidate. This poem, related, is from her 1991 collection Not Me published by (semiotexte), An American Poem. It as satisfying much like her interview is satisfying: she says things that are profound, necessary, hyperbolic, and funny. Her poetry is accessible, and down to earth:

An American Poem

BY EILEEN MYLES

I was born in Boston in
1949. I never wanted
this fact to be known, in
fact I’ve spent the better
half of my adult life
trying to sweep my early
years under the carpet
and have a life that
was clearly just mine
and independent of
the historic fate of
my family. Can you
imagine what it was
like to be one of them,
to be built like them,
to talk like them
to have the benefits
of being born into such
a wealthy and powerful
American family. I went
to the best schools,
had all kinds of tutors
and trainers, traveled
widely, met the famous,
the controversial, and
the not-so-admirable
and I knew from
a very early age that
if there were ever any
possibility of escaping
the collective fate of this famous
Boston family I would
take that route and
I have. I hopped
on an Amtrak to New
York in the early
‘70s and I guess
you could say
my hidden years
began. I thought
Well I’ll be a poet.
What could be more
foolish and obscure.
I became a lesbian.
Every woman in my
family looks like
a dyke but it’s really
stepping off the flag
when you become one.
While holding this ignominious
pose I have seen and
I have learned and
I am beginning to think
there is no escaping
history. A woman I
am currently having
an affair with said
you know  you look
like a Kennedy. I felt
the blood rising in my
cheeks. People have
always laughed at
my Boston accent
confusing “large” for
“lodge,” “party”
for “potty.” But
when this unsuspecting
woman invoked for
the first time my
family name
I knew the jig
was up. Yes, I am,
I am a Kennedy.
My attempts to remain
obscure have not served
me well. Starting as
a humble poet I
quickly climbed to the
top of my profession
assuming a position of
leadership and honor.
It is right that a
woman should call
me out now. Yes,
I am a Kennedy.
And I await
your orders.
You are the New Americans.
The homeless are wandering
the streets of our nation’s
greatest city. Homeless
men with AIDS are among
them. Is that right?
That there are no homes
for the homeless, that
there is no free medical
help for these men. And women.
That they get the message
—as they are dying—
that this is not their home?
And how are your
teeth today? Can
you afford to fix them?
How high is your rent?
If art is the highest
and most honest form
of communication of
our times and the young
artist is no longer able
to move here to speak
to her time…Yes, I could,
but that was 15 years ago
and remember—as I must
I am a Kennedy.
Shouldn’t we all be Kennedys?
This nation’s greatest city
is home of the business-
man and home of the
rich artist. People with
beautiful teeth who are not
on the streets. What shall
we do about this dilemma?
Listen, I have been educated.
I have learned about Western
Civilization. Do you know
what the message of Western
Civilization is? I am alone.
Am I alone tonight?
I don’t think so. Am I
the only one with bleeding gums
tonight. Am I the only
homosexual in this room
tonight. Am I the only
one whose friends have
died, are dying now.
And my art can’t
be supported until it is
gigantic, bigger than
everyone else’s, confirming
the audience’s feeling that they are
alone. That they alone
are good, deserved
to buy the tickets
to see this Art.
Are working,
are healthy, should
survive, and are
normal. Are you
normal tonight? Everyone
here, are we all normal.
It is not normal for
me to be a Kennedy.
But I am no longer
ashamed, no longer
alone. I am not
alone tonight because
we are all Kennedys.
And I am your President.

Right? She is the partner of Jill Soloway, the creator of the TV series Transparent, who said  of Myles:

I see Eileen as a wayward walking country minister posing as a dyke poet. Her mind is the most expansive mind I’ve ever had the pleasure of being in contrast to. There is no thought or impulse of mine, be it revolutionary, feminist, radical, dirty, beautiful, silly, abstract or murderous, that feels ugly. That totally frees me up to say to myself: more, more, more.

Plus that great gummy smile. Myles is the author of a novel, Chelsea Girls, recently reissued, and the collection of poetry ‘I Must Be Living Twice: New and Selected Poems 1975 – 2014.

Ellen Cantor at the Wattis

There are only a few days left to see the Ellen Cantor show at the Wattis, curated by Jamie Stevens and Fatima Hellberg.

00737

Jamie Stevens writes, in an introduction to the show:

A prolific artist who lived between New York and London, Cantor combined readymade materials with diaristic notes and drawings to probe her perceptions and experiences of personal desire and institutional violence.

In her drawings, paintings, collages, and videos, Cantor lifted characters and sequences from iconic films, reorienting the ideological transmissions of the source material. Fictional figures from Disney cartoons, cult horror films, New Wave cinema, and family movies provide a visual foil to Cantor’s intimate disclosures. Magnetized by the doeful naivety of characters such as Snow White and Bambi, Cantor would, in her drawings, extend their narrative horizons to include vivid sexual encounters and crisisridden relationships.

For the final eight years of her life, Cantor was working on the featurelength film Pinochet Porn. Originally a suite of drawings named Circus Lives from Hell (2005), Pinochet Porn is an episodic narrative about five children growing up under the regime of General Augusto Pinochet in Chile. Featuring a cast of close friends and collaborators, and shot in New York and London, Pinochet Porn stages a libidinal critique of the systematic and sadistic destruction of selfexpression and experience.

The Wattis is one of the best things about the San Francisco art scene–Anthony Huberman moved out here from P.S.1. in New York just over a year ago, and was joined by Jamie Stevens, formerly of the Serpentine Gallery in London, who are doing great work bringing artists to San Francisco who’ve yet to have big solo shows in the U.S. or West Coast. I am looking forward to the upcoming Wang Bing show as well.

U.S. Congress Takes a Momentous Stand Against Human Trafficking

child-prostitution

I have for quite some time done what I can to help children who are used for sex. I am a contributor to organizations that fight sex trafficking, and I follow much of the law surrounding it. So I was very happy to see that the JVTA, which has been sent today to Obama to sign, passed our Congress. Here is the writeup from CATW:

New York, May 19, 2015 – The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW) applauds the U.S. Congress for passing the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act (JVTA), the first comprehensive bill to address domestic human trafficking. It now awaits the signature of President Barack Obama to become law.

The JVTA creates a new funding stream to finance services for U.S. trafficking victims. Up to $30 million of the innovative funding mechanism will come from $5,000 fines on perpetrators of crimes ranging from human trafficking to child pornography. The legislation also redefines federal law to clarify that sex buyers of children and human trafficking victims can be prosecuted as traffickers.

“Not only will the JVTA finance services for U.S. victims of trafficking, it puts the onus on sex buyers who cause the devastating harm. We finally have strong federal legislation that aims to prevent the demand for sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation,” says Taina Bien-Aimé, executive director of CATW.

One of the JVTA’s most important provisions requires the Department of Justice to incorporate demand reduction strategies into all human trafficking training programs. Survivors have been key in demanding more accountability from commercial sex buyers who cause extensive harm to those they exploit. As a result, the JVTA also creates a new U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking, with at least eight survivors, to make recommendations to the US Government on anti-trafficking strategies.

“This victory is not only the result of successful collaborations across political and ideological lines, but it is a testament to the power of survivors enlightening us with the best solutions to end trafficking and exploitation,” says Bien-Aimé.

Even more tips for recruiting women

In your recruiting literature:

1. Talk about the overarching goal, why you are building what you’re building, and for whom
2. Talk about the whole product
3. No references to size (Massive, Huge, Gargantuan)
4. No references to war or assassination. (Ninja, Killer, Slaughter)
5. No references to defeating or subordinating others: (World Domination, We Rule)

How to recruit women in tech

Etsy’s work in creating a friendly place for women in tech should be widely emulated. Don’t just sit and wait for women to apply for jobs. Make sure your company is friendly to women. Let it be known that you are interested in recruiting and retaining women. Build your own pipeline for applicants.

Also, read this interview with Maggie Nelson of Findery, about becoming a software engineer.

You don’t have to be pretty

You Don’t Have to Be Pretty. You don’t owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don’t owe it to your mother, you don’t owe it to your children, you don’t owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked “female”.

Erin McKean

Virgina Woolf, Literature and The Body

Leslie Jamison writes about the body in The Atlantic, and in the article this quote from Virginia Woolf’s Essay “On Being Ill:

Literature does its best to maintain that its concern is with the mind; that the body is a sheet of plain glass through which the soul looks straight and clear, and, save for one or two passions such as desire and greed, is null, and negligible and non-existent. On the contrary, the very opposite is true. All day, all night, the body intervenes…

%d bloggers like this: