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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Eileen Myles discusses her literary work and experience at UMass Boston

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Eileen Myles speaking at UMass Boston

In collaboration with the Office of University Advancement and Alumni Relations, the Departments of Political Science, American Studies, English, Women’s and Gender Studies, and the Honor’s College at the University of Massachusetts Boston, poet Eileen Myles was invited to read from some of her published writings.
Myles, who was born in Cambridge into a working-class environment, attended a Catholic school in Arlington, graduating from the University of Massachusetts Boston in 1971.
“I love UMass Boston,” said Myles.
”When I came here, it was the beginning of my education. It made me understand the joy of being in a conversation with people about the things you thought about. It is one thing to think and to read, but you have to share it. It was the beginning of my communication.”
She described herself as being a lousy student in high school — it was only during her time at UMass Boston that she discovered her passion for literature, as well what it means to shape those ideas together.  
“I’ve always been a reader, but I had nobody to talk to [before],” she explained.
After college, she left Boston and moved to New York, where she is still based today, with the intention of living as a poet. She became an active member, and later the artistic director, of the St. Marks Poetry Project. In the following decades she published several novels and poems that dealt with themes like homosexuality, working-class environments, and the struggles of becoming a writer.
One of the many famous books included in her reading was “Inferno (a poet’s novel).” She reflects on her self-identity by telling the story of a young, gay girl from a Catholic school who goes to New York to become a writer. It shows that some poets might not fit into a pre-destined box, but can determine for themselves who they want to be.
Myles, who has been called “the rock star of modern poetry” (BUST Magazine), says that “there is a certain thing that a female poet should be and I don’t think I fulfill that.” In her books she talks about sexuality very openly and uses strong language, which might seem repelling to certain people.
“All these things that men should do, I do,” she adds, “and people don’t know where to put that.” Lately she has been even compared to Charles Bukowski—despite the fact that her writing is nothing like his. “It’s a more comfortable way of talking about class and sexuality,” Myles pointed out. However, she refuses being labelled and seen as fitting one stereotype.
“The longer I write, and the more books I write, and the more complicated the vision is, the less the box will fit. And eventually I won’t be in any box instead of my own.”