I had the good fortune to see Eileen Myles and Thurston Moore perform together last week. It was a really great evening; its intensity surprised me.
I think many of us in the red-velveted auditorium felt a discomforting but not displeasing mise en abyme of nostalgia that night. (Paris’s Maison de la Poésie was the perfect place for it, with the Salle de Lautréamont right next door.)
The poetry they read and the music Moore performed were haunted by the specter of the lost-and-safe 1990s…
which was in turn haunted by the New York punk 1970s…
haunted by the Parisian decadents,
haunted by Sade and 18th century gothic terror…and that’s where I lose the trail of this dark streak. It was a glaringly Caucasian and Eurocentric day of the dead celebration.
Myles has moved much further beyond the mode of gleeful, negative immaturity than Moore in her creative work. She read from her forthcoming, unabashedly loopy dog memoir, which turns the dog she is fictionalizing into God. Her endearing and funny fusion of therapeutic lingo, rhythmic wordplay, and sensual description sounded very fresh to me.
Moore’s guitar work didn’t, but it did sound classic. I still found it quite moving:
The performance crystallized for me the highly problematic aspects of the Marxist-influenced, post-punk subjective paradigm Myles and Moore share. Yet it also helped me think about the ways this paradigm can still be useful and vital, once recast.
Punk never died, but was always part of a larger lineage of the undead that haunts dominant industrialized culture across the globe.
Here is Eileen Myles’ “Holes,” collected in Outlaw Bible of American Poetry, ed. Alan Kaufman. NY: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1999.
Once when I passed East Fourth Street off First Avenue,
I think it was in early fall and I had a small hole
in the shoulder of my white shirt, and another on
the back–I looked just beautiful. There was a
whole moment in the 70s when it was beautiful
to have holes in your shirts and sweaters.
By now it was 1981, but I carried that 70s style
around like a torch. There was a whole way of
feeling about yourself that was more European
than American, unless it was American around
1910 when it was beautiful to be a strong
starving immigrant who believed so much
in herself and she was part of a movement
as big as history and it explained the
hole in her shirt. It’s the beginning
of summer tonight, and every season has
cracks through which winter
or fall might leak out. The most perfect
flavor of it, oddly in June. Oh remember
when I was an immigrant. I took a black
beauty and got up from the pile of poems
around my knees and just had too much
energy for thought and walked over to
your house where there was continuous
beer. Finally we were just drinking
Rheingold, a hell of a beer. At the
door I mentioned I had a crush on both
of you, what you say to a couple. By
now the kids were in bed. I can’t
even say clearly now that I wanted
the woman, though it seemed to be
the driving principle then, wanting
one of everything. I was part of
a generation of people who went to
the bars on 7th street and drank the
cheap whiskey and the ale on tap and dreamed
about when I would get you alone. Those
big breasts. I carried slim notebooks which only
permitted two or three-word lines. I need you.
“Nearing the Horse.” There was blood in all my
titles, and milk. I had two bright blue pills
in my pocket. I loved you so much. It was
the last young thing I ever did, the end of
my renaissance, an immigration into my
dream world which even my grandparents
had not dared to live, being prisoners
of schizophrenia and alcohol, though
I was lovers with the two. The beauty
of the story is that it happened.
It was the last thing that happened
in New York. Everything else happened
while I was stopping it from happening.
Everything else had a life of
its own. I don’t think I owe
them an apology, though at least
one of their kids hates my guts.
She can eat my guts for all
I care. I had a small hole in
the front of my black sleeveless
sweater. It was just something
that happened. It got larger
and larger. I liked to put
my finger in it. In the month
of December I couldn’t get
out of bed. I kept waking
up at 6PM and it was Christmas
or New Year’s and I had
started drinking & eating. I remember
you handing me the most beautiful
red plate of pasta. It was like your cunt
on a plate. I met people in your house
even found people to go out and fuck,
regrettably, not knowing about
the forbidden fruit. I forget
what the only sin is. Somebody
told me recently. I have so
many holes in my memory. Between
me and the things I’m separated
from. I pick up a book and
another book and memory
and separation seem to
be all anyone writes
about. Or all they
seem to let me read.
But I remember those
beautiful holes on
my back like a