Review of Snowflake / Different Streets, by Eileen MylesBy J. A. Tyler
September 19, 2012
We drove across Colorado, Utah, a touch of Nevada, and Arizona. I brought several books with me to read on our road-trip to southern California—Blake Butler’s Nothing, Amelia Gray’s Threats, Anne-Marie Kinney’s Radio Iris, and Eileen Myles’s Snowflake / Different Streets—and though I was anxious for each of these new titles, for whatever reason, I started with Myles, reading Snowflake / Different Streets in the morning fog and afternoon sun of Santa Ana. From there, everything unraveled.
the night’s a little devil
I hold in my hand
him. Digging his heat.
Eileen Myles’s poetry is unassuming. It is quickly digestible yet has a vise-like grip, holding a reader from the bones outward, using a vocabulary only broad when it needs to be, and mostly residing in a curve of elegantly understated, accessible language. The ease and comfort is lovingly palpable, and that was the element I enjoyed first in Snowflake / Different Streets.
But then, between beach trips and roller-coasters, In-N-Outs and El Pollo Loco, I tried and failed to start each of the remaining books I’d brought on vacation. These weren’t bad or boring or any less intriguing than Myles’s Snowflake / Different Streets, but every time I opened one of those other books, I found myself instead continuing to eat on Myles poetry, distracted to the point where I couldn’t hang on to any new words.
It’s just not as much fun without a good
light and a sharp knife
I mean leaning into the peach of
it. People find the time
to get theirs sharpened or use yours.
That drip in the kitchen is like
someone I know. Today’s cold
is like an affirmation of the purchase
of yesterday’s new shirt. I knew the cold
would come some time but today.
I’m wearing that drip most of all.
This distraction was fascinating because when I initially finished the book, I didn’t feel strongly affected. In fact, Snowflake / Different Streets only felt like a good, solid collection of fun-to-read poetry, but then Myles’s words and phrasing kept coming back, stalling me into an unexpectedly intense literary holding-pattern. So instead of moving forward, I returned to it, and found a personal connection in the acknowledgments:
The set I vaguely think of as “the LA/Driving poems” (Snowflake, pages 26-40) were dictated onto a small digital recorder while I drove from Sand Diego to Los Angeles at twilight then night.
Though Myles’s car was presumably filled with only her singular presence during that trip, and mine had been shared with two sleeping grandparents, one sleeping mother, one sleeping first-grader, and one awake but quiet two-year-old, I had coincidentally read this very set of poems after driving that exact same stretch of road at the same time of night. And when I re-read those particular poems after seeing the acknowledgment page, the words were as true to me as to Myles, and there perhaps is the crux of Snowflake / Different Streets: Myles’s poetry is so unbelievably grounded, so real and from the heart that it connects with its readers, each and every one of them, in distinct, soluble ways.
from “#9 Destroying Us”:
I don’t mean to romanticize
this thing that’s destroying
I would happily drive
more than two hours
I would drive . . .
romanticize this thing
that’s destroying us
I would drive
a couple of hours
I was on vacation in southern California when I discovered what Snowflake / Different Streets meant to me, but you’ll be somewhere else when you unbury Myles’s poetry, and you’ll see something else in it that will be as penetrating and beautiful and personal as what I found.
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