Eileen Myles discussing their new book
by Eileen Myles
published by Grove Atlantic
“Literature is pathetic.” So claims Eileen Myles in their bold and bracing introduction to Pathetic Literature, an exuberant collection of pieces ranging from poetry to drama to prose to something in between, all of which explore those so-called “pathetic” or sensitive feelings around which lives are built and revolutions are incited.
Myles first reclaimed the word for a seminar they taught at the University of California San Diego, rescuing it from the derision into which it had slipped and restoring its original meaning of inspiring emotion or feeling, from the Ancient Greek rhetorical method pathos. Their reinvention of “pathetic” formed the bedrock for this anthology, which includes a breathtaking 105 contributors, encompassing titans of global literature like Robert Walser, Jorge Luis Borges, Rumi, and Gwendolyn Brooks, queer icons and revolutionaries like Dodie Bellamy, Samuel Delany, and Bob Flanagan, as well as the invigorating newness and excitement of writers on the rise, including Nicole Wallace, Precious Okoyomon, and Will Farris. Creative nonfiction by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio, Jack Halberstam, and Porochista Khakpour rubs shoulders with poetry by Natalie Diaz, Victoria Chang, Lucille Clifton, and Ariana Reines, all joined by prose from Chester Himes, Djuna Barnes, Chris Kraus, and Qiu Miaojin, among so many others. The result is a matchless anthology that is as much an ongoing dialogue as an essential compendium of queer, revolutionary, joyful, and always moving literature.
From confrontations with suffering, embarrassment, and disquiet, to the comforts and consolations of finding one’s familiar double in a poem, Pathetic Literature is a swarming taxonomy of ways to think differently and live pathetically on a polarized and fearful planet.
Eileen Myles is the author of more than twenty books, including Afterglow (a dog memoir), Inferno (a poet’s novel), Chelsea Girls, and Cool For You. Myles’s many honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship, four Lambda Literary Awards, the Clark Prize for Excellence in Arts Writing, as well as grants from Creative Capital (nonfiction) and the Foundation for Contemporary Arts (poetry), and the Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers grant.
What has been said about the work of Eileen Myles
“Eileen Myles may be the closest thing we have to a celebrity poet.”—Paris Review
“In Eileen Myles’s newest book of poetry, Evolution, we encounter an arrival, a voice always becoming, unpinnable and queer. Myles’s new poems are transformations, and perhaps a culmination of the poet’s previous inquiries into love, gender, poetry, America, and its politics . . . The form of Myles’s work rivals its subject matter in intimacy. The lines in Evolution are physical, a body unleashed but not yet comfortable and not without fear. The short lines rush down the page, movement as touch, touch as freedom.”—Natalie Diaz, New York Times Book Review
“Myles’s poetry is kinetic, ecstatic, muscular, hilarious, sorrowful, valiant, original, necessary, and timeless.”—Maggie Nelson
“Explore[s] and document the limits of language, both visual and literary.”—Artforum, on Evolution
“I loved Evolution . . . Poems that lope along, chatty, restless and limber.”—Olivia Laing, New Statesman
“Eileen Myles’s essential poetry is the hip kid leaning against their locker secretly burning with intensity, the smartest boy in the class who doesn’t care he has a scar down his face, the thing you just wish you’d said.”—Lena Dunham
“Lopes forward in the strutting style of the witnessing and sincere, but gorgeously nonaustere, poet in New York . . . The gift of Evolution is its bold depiction of the textually-rendered ‘I’-Eileen.”—Kenyon Review
“With the publication of their new book of poetry, Evolution, Myles explores, among other things, the loss of their mother, who died in April of last year; this current political era; past relationships; and their new dog, Honey . . . Myles [wants] people to find the accessibility of poetry: in life, in love, in Instagram, in everything.”—Vanity Fair
“Evolution, Eileen Myles’s first all-new collection of poetry since 2011, circles back to classic themes such as their love of dogs, loneliness, and parental loss. These poems, however, are also immediate and pressingly contemporary. Myles is conducting an intimate exchange with the government, peering into their computer and saying hello to whoever might be surveilling them.”—Lambda Literary
“A mutt elegy in a million . . . Myles gets at something no other dog book I’ve read has gotten at quite this distinctly: The sense of wordless connection and spiritual expansion you feel when you love and are loved by a creature who’s not human.”—Maureen Corrigan, NPR’s Fresh Air, on Afterglow (a dog memoir)
“A wry, gorgeous, psychedelic effort to plumb the subject of dog-human partnership.”—New Yorker, on Afterglow (a dog memoir)
“Cosmic, and charming . . . Far-flung, and wonderfully loving.”—Boston Globe, on Afterglow (a dog memoir)
This event was made possible by support from the City Lights Foundation