Introductions for Robert Glück & Eileen Myles – 10/28/09

Robert Glück is the author of nine books of poetry and fiction, including two novels, Margery Kempe and Jack the Modernist and a book of stories, Denny Smith. Gluck edited, along with Camille Roy, Mary Berger and Gail Scott, the anthology Biting The Error: Writers on Narrative. Glück was Director of The Poetry Center at San Francisco State, Co-director of Small Press Traffic, and Associate Editor at Lapis Press. His poetry and fiction have been published in the New Directions Anthology, City Lights Anthologies, Best New Gay Fiction 1988 and 1996 and Best American Erotica 1996 and 2005. His critical articles appeared in artforum international, Aperture, Poetics Journal, and Nest: A Quarterly of Interiors, and he prefaced Between Life and Death, a book on the paintings of Frank Moore. Last year he and artist Dean Smith completed the film “Aliengnosis.”

When I read Bob’s work I’m always struck by his ability to sustain what he calls “endless reframing.” He casts distance out of the body and lets distance into the body, or really he brings together any and all contrary evidence in a way that allows particles to remain kinetic, zooming in and out so fast all we notice is that we have to admit an intimacy not possible were it not for his experience of it, his writing of it, his sense of community. Reading chapters from Bob’s About Ed sent me to Blanchot’s opening sentence of his The Writing of the Disaster, which reads: “The disaster ruins everything, all the while leaving everything intact.” The narrator, Bob, is struggling to live and feel in the absence of Ed, a former lover lost to AIDS. Most people know how to think with pleasure but how do we think with pain? This is one of the many gifts of Bob’s work – that it doesn’t offer consolation, or may be that it offers honesty, putting faith in process, as consolation. It’s a total honor for me to introduce him tonight at the Poetry Project. Bob Glück.

Eileen Myles remains a green & prolific poet (Sorry Tree, Not Me…) whose first collection of essays on art, poetry, queerness & culture The Importance of Being Iceland, for which she received a Warhol/Creative Capital grant, is just out from Semiotext(e)/MIT. Eileen also writes novels (Chelsea Girls, Cool for You) and librettos (“Hell”) and has given a thousand (great) readings all over North America, Europe, Russia and Iceland since first arriving in New York from Boston in 1974 to be a poet. She ran the Poetry Project in the 80s. In 1992 she conducted an openly female write in campaign for President. Since 1996 she’s toured several times with Sister Spit. She’s a Professor Emeritus of Writing & Literature at UC San Diego. She lives in New York.

The release of The Importance of Being Iceland is one of the most exciting literary events of 2009. I think that one of the marks of literary greatness is how many contexts a writer or a work can “make sense” in. Eileen makes sense in many, but the one I have been fixated on lately is Eileen in sentences, Eileen as a talker, or as a happening. Being part of a conversation with her on any given day can be an awe-inspiring experience. Many big talkers aren’t great listeners but she is and can take people wherever they want to go. It’s collaborative. We get a sense of the ambulatory nature of her mind, engaged, and Iceland is a score of that movement. In this sense she is also environmental, aka an eco-poet, both sharing the shape of her mind as well as of the field (or any place). She writes in “How to Write an Avant-Garde Poem”: “…a poem is nature. Part of my mind, that whirligig that sits by the window and spins.” And then: “But I mean your whole life becomes a turning job not just the poem.” This continuous spinning is daily praxis – is Eileen Myles laying down bridges for us. Please welcome her back to the Project.