Monday, May 23, 2011

Aimless Reading: The M's, Part 64.1 (Eileen Myles)

School of Fish by Michael_Kelleher
School of Fish, a photo by Michael_Kelleher on Flickr.

Myles, Eileen
School of Fish

Purchased at St. Mark's Books. Inscribed thusly:

For Michael,

be as you are (why am I giving advice?)

Love, Eileen

I remember going to a book launch party at the Poetry Project when this book came out. I think it was in the spring of '97, after I'd finished Eileen's workshop at the New School. Speaking of which…

After the first class I decided I liked Eileen and went about reading a lot more of her work. After the second class, I approached her with some questions and started pestering her about why she had made certain choices in one of her poems. I basically told her that I thought the poem could have been better, which even then seemed pretty brash. Eileen forever endeared herself to me by not taking any of it personally. She instead invited me for coffee.

She had her bicycle and we walked together over to the old 2nd Ave. Deli. I remember being really excited to be taken seriously by a "real" poet. I kept talking and talking and talking until I got myself so worked up I knocked over a glass of water and I remember watching the water, as if in slow motion, running over the tabletop and into Eileen's lap. I felt really stupid and embarrassed.

I later worked this moment into a poem that I brought to class. I didn't put Eileen in the poem, just the glass of water spilling and I remember Eileen talking about the spilled water as an image of time passing.

About every other class took place in Eileen's apartment on 2nd St. I think it was 2nd. Maybe 3rd? No, I think it was second. I only lived a couple of blocks away, so it was very convenient. I remember her apartment being exactly what every poet fantasized living in when they moved to NYC. It was a rent controlled floor thru with rickety floor boards and books everywhere. She also had a dog named, I think, Rosie. I used to run into her walking the dog in Tompkins Sq. once in a while.

Towards the end of the semester my father passed away suddenly. When I returned from the funeral DC I was in a daze. I think there was one class left at Eileen's apartment. I decided to go, though I probably shouldn't have. I remember setting myself the task of writing a poem about my father that was neither narrative nor written in the first person. It came out very abstract and lifeless. I took it to class anyway and read it after telling the story of my father dying and how I was trying to stay true to my aesthetic principles as I wrote about the experience. Everyone was very nice, even though it was a terrible poem.

Eileen wrote me the recommendation I was looking for and also suggested that I look into the Buffalo Poetics Program instead of just looking for an MFA. Elaine Equi gave me the same advice.

And lo…I am still here.

from School of Fish


The weekend you died was

really a big deal for both

of us. You were really

cute, such a brilliant writer,

and so fucked up. It was

like seeing our insides

on the screen of MTV

that weekend, being famous.

All your songs seemed

special to me After

that. I never knew

how to claim them

before. The rapines

in your voice was

real, we stayed up all night

watching the same

pink videos

of you on unplugged

seeming tremendously

sad, and now dead.

Your death was something

we could share. We read

every single article

we could get our hands

on, Circus, Rolling Stone,

anything. I felt I knew

it all–about Kurt and when

I was done I would

hand him to you.

I guess it was great that there

was something we both

loved, this dead guy.

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