Autumn Royal Attends Eileen Myles Reading at The Wheeler Centre

autumnroyalAutumn Royal’s research examines the interplay between form and genre in the work of Australian poet Dorothy Porter. Autumn focuses on Porter’s verse novels and the ways in which this form may be used to create new spaces for alternative expressions of women’s sexuality.

Here, she reflects on watching and listening to an Eileen Myles’ reading.

In the poem ‘A Gift for You’ Eileen Myles complicates the modesty historically associated with being a woman:

I’m not particularly

into the task

of humility

at the moment

but I’m

not against

it

it’s like that

deflated

beach ball

on a tiny

chair

While the beach ball in this poem might be deflated it still technically has the possibility of floating and it’s up to the reader what they wish to do next.

It was with great effort and generosity that Ann Vickery and Marion May Campbell, along with the sponsorship of Deakin’s Writing and Literature Group, arranged for Myles to read her work on 21 May at Melbourne’s The Wheeler Centre.

In support of Myles’ reading Vickery and Campbell kindly encouraged HDR students Zoe Dzunko, Ella O’Keefe and myself to share our own poetry. Myles read from a range of her inexhaustible work including her recently released I Must Be Living Twice: New & Selected Poems 1975 – 2014. Myles’ writing explores the unconscious and conscious elements of our bodies within everyday experiences. We don’t often ‘tell’ ourselves to breathe—yet the act of focussing on breath enhances both the function and the experience. 

When considering the titles of Myles’ 19 books—including Sappho’s Boat, Cool for You and The Importance of Being Iceland—one cannot underestimate their self-reflexivity. Returning to I Must Be Living Twice lets consider how Myles reveals the doggedness of the ‘I Must’ in comparison taking for granted the fact that she is ‘Living Twice’. Whether it’s through poetry, novels, performances or essays, Myles presents the reader with a subjectivity that encourages them to create new understandings of their own.

Myles discussed her poetics in greater detail during a HDR writing workshop on Monday 23 May 2016 where—to lighten her travel load—she read from a sheared War and Peace. Myles read aloud from her torn up Tolstoy until she felt like stoping, while we responded with our own bodies by only writing down words that resonated with us. With only these words, we constructed and shared our own ‘novel poem’.

The exercise reminded me of the importance of ‘focussing’ in a world where there’s so much to look at. The difference between ‘reading’ and ‘seeing’ seems innocent at first, but in an age when we’re forced to ‘scan’, inattentions can be destructive. Writers like Myles ‘work out’ the poetry and expose the war and peace within these feeds.

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