It was a heady time, she says. "It was like my own awareness of my body and time, my needing to change in order to be there, my sense that something else in my life was about to change . . . everything from gender to genre, in a kind of fluidity that I was deeply aware of when I was living there. And having to move with it, whatever 'it' was, even when I didn't know what it was. And then I went back to New York. And so, literally, when I got back to New York, I thought, 'How am I gonna write poems now?' " She had felt that things were about to change, then they did — she fell in love — and with that came different streets. So she put the two volumes together, with one collection on one side and then, if you flip the book over, the other on the opposing side. It's designed this way to demonstrate the collapse of distance, like two volumes "hitting each other at high velocity," she says.
The book also explores space as containment and freedom, much as a short poem can be a portal to a larger experience. Airplanes, in particular, seem to interest her here: "drinking that much/Diet Coke on the plane/to prove/I am a man," she writes.
Recently, she explains, on a flight home from Norway, "the first stewardess asked me, 'Sir, what would you like to drink?' And I thought, 'Oh, that's cool.' And then the next one came up and asked me, 'Ma'am, what would you like to eat?' And it was just a plane being a container; it was different going from deli to deli, or from deli to subway to cab. As a longhaired, androgynous butch, I just come up as a lot of different things. And throw age into the soup, and you just have another variable. So I feel like I'm always working with it in terms of the inside and the outside, and negotiating all the time. And the poem does that, too."
EILEEN MYLES | Brookline Booksmith, 279 Harvard St, Brookline | May 5 | 7 pm | 617.566.6660 or brooklinebooksmith.com
SNOWFLAKE/DIFFERENT STREETS | BY EILEEN MYLES | WAVE BOOKS | 232 PAGES | $20