Evolution by Eileen Myles

Grove Press, September 2018, 240 pp

Grove Press, September 2018, 240 pp

Diving into a collection like Evolution, having no previous experience of Eileen Myles’ vast oeuvre of modern poetry, may seem like a daunting task. But she writes swiftly, with ease, of everyday events. Her lines are strikingly short, often consisting of merely a word or two. They are sentences cut short; they ask to focus on each of the words, one at a time. At more than 200 pages, the effect is vertiginous, and it is easy to lose focus unless you’re equipped with some extra patience. I’m taking a random example here, ‘May 26’:

I keep
to tiny
gestures
sweet
William
dazzling orange
sky. My my
my my dying
new york.

Judging from a purely standalone perspective, as if I had read an anonymized manuscript of Evolution, the collection unfortunately doesn’t make a huge impression on me. The banality of everyday life, in my view, only rarely gets heightened here. Ultimately, I find myself much more in awe of the legacy of Eileen Myles and the important voice she’s been in the LTBTQ community for decades. For that, I’m curious to see whether Evolution is only a mishap in an otherwise impressive back catalogue – or if I simply do not get her poetry!