Eileen Myles on writing in a pandemic
“It’s been a real workshop with solitude.”
Welcome to the latest issue of Subtle Maneuvers. Previously, we looked at John Cage’s fascination with fungi.
Eileen Myles (b. 1949)
Last Tuesday, the poet Eileen Myles led a Zoom tour of the art in their Marfa, Texas, house as part of the Performance-in-Place series hosted by the Rubin Foundation. It was a fun, freewheeling ramble through one writer’s art collection, with brief discursions on works by Zoe Leonard, Nicole Eisenman, Jack Pierson, Robin Bruch, and several others, as well as a peek into Myles’s renovated “poet’s shack” in the backyard (essentially a New York studio apartment transplanted to the west Texas scrub) and several guest appearances by Honey the pit bull.
In an audience Q&A after the tour, Myles (who uses third-person pronouns) also talked a bit about their daily writing life during this strange moment of social distancing. Myles normally splits their time between Marfa and New York’s East Village, where they have lived in the same rent-controlled one-bedroom apartment since the 1970s, but for the pandemic they’re staying put in Marfa. One audience member asked if they had encountered “creative or generative barriers” during the pandemic, and, if so, how they had overcome them. Myles replied that, while they normally find that social events can be an interruption to their work, now they’re grappling with “the opposite problem of having unending privacy and aloneness.” To combat that, Myles said, “I’ve had to use physical exercise, phone calls, and different schedules and it’s just like—I still haven’t resolved it.” Myles continued: