"Chelsea Girls" Poet, Eileen Myles, Is An Idol For New Generation Feminists

Photo by Inez and Vinoodh

Photo by Inez and Vinoodh

"At the age of 66, Myles has published 19 books of poetry, prose and criticism, but until last year, when Ecco re-­released her 1994 novel, 'Chelsea Girls,' many readers didn’t know who she was. That’s not to say she wasn’t famous in her own way — if you were a contemporary poet, if you were gay or if you had an interest in the cultural feminism of the 1990s, you probably read her. Each of these communities had its canon, and in their canons Myles figured.

But 2015 was the year that the culture machine picked up Myles and transmitted her to a larger audience. The gritty, idealistic outsiders of New York’s creative scenes in the late ’70s — their era’s music, art and general sense of freedom — provided an antidote to the homogeneity of today’s pop culture, and few writers captured that romantic rawness quite like Myles. She published poems in The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books for the first time. Young women were reading her work in the coffee shops of Brooklyn.

This new generation of public feminists, including Beth Ditto, Lena Dunham and Tavi Gevinson, cite her as an inspiration, finding in her writing a ribald and ponderous succession to the New York School. Earlier in her career, she explained, publishers seemed only to accommodate so much difference, so that 'if you were going to publish gay work, you were going to publish sentimental gay work, you were going to publish conventional gay work.' Now, she said, 'I think what social media has done is made us relish variables. You know? We’re just living in these floating fragmentations.' And with that came a realization that 'everybody’s queer — everybody’s wrongly shaped for a culture that requires conformity.' - Emily Witt via The New York Times Style Magazine