OVERBOOKED: “Snowflake/different streets”

Stephanie Chen, Senior Staff Reporter

Do you remember last week when the Northeast was hit by a massive snowstorm, and all your friends that live in boring places like Nowhere, Massachusetts and Sadplace, Connecticut were snowed in and had to skip work or school? And they all got drunk and binge-watched Netflix? And wouldn’t stop talking about the “Snowpocalypse” on all forms of social media? And you were jealous because, even though that sounds like a normal day in New Orleans, the thought of being curled up in bed with zero obligations and beautiful, evil snow everywhere was incredible?

Yeah, I remember that too.

I follow Wave Books, a great independent poetry press, on Twitter. In the days before the snowstorm hit, they saw a shining window of opportunity to market their book “Snowflake/different streets” by Eileen Myles. You know, because snow. The timing was perfect because 1. this column and 2. I had forgotten I owned this book.

Last year, I bought “Snowflake/different streets” at the now-defunct Maple Street Used Book Shops. In a weak moment of yuppie enthusiasm, I had purchased a Groupon that gave me $20 worth of books for only $10. This was clearly a great deal, except that I forgot about the coupon until the day it was about to expire and rushed to the store. I then realized that I couldn’t find any of the books I had come there to by.

What is the point of any of this?! I wanted to rage at the bored, vaguely-artistic dude manning the counter. Is life just an empty… and then, while browsing the poetry section, I noticed Wave Books’ publishing stamp on a book’s spine.

I was desperate. I was swayed by the book’s clean typography and understated binding. I had Groupon money that needed to be spent.

I bought it.

Myles is a prolific, award-winning poet known for being a punk rock literary star, a fixture in the poetry and queer art scene of the 80s and 90s. She writes about technology, sexuality, feminism and her love of dogs. Also, I’m going to go ahead and humble-brag: she follows me on Instagram (I’m pretty sure it’s one of those accidental follow-backs, but that’s neither here nor there. Let me just tell you, she posts many strangely angled pictures of dogs or the sidewalk or herself. It’s incredible.)

Which brings us to today. I tried three times this week to read “Snowflake/different streets,” and not because it’s a dense book. In fact, the language is sparse, colloquial, uncluttered, and there are often no more than three words on each line. The collection (or rather, double-collection — it’s made up of two collections bound back-to-back, divided into “new poems” and “newer poems”) is best enjoyed when read straight through. I got up on Sunday, made a pot of coffee, and finished it in one sitting.

This collection is so accessible, and the poems’ speaker takes on a conversational tone that is sharp, intimate, brash and playful. No poetry collection has made me laugh as much as this one did, while speaking to the serious experience of being a woman in contemporary society.

Every poem captures a specific moment or feeling, and the whole collection’s immediacy is striking. All the poems feel spontaneous, like they are speaking to you right now. They switch gears in a blink of an eye; and while it’s exhilarating, it also feels completely natural. For example, here’s one of my favorite poems in “Snowflake”:

Computer

I’m not even a boat

I’m where a boat

crashed.

I put my impossible

body in your hands

is this a pen.

That’s it, that’s the poem! That’s genius! I don’t even know what else to say. I will never be able to write like this, which is both depressing and immensely satisfying. This book makes me so glad to be alive.

Next week: “A Room of One’s Own” by Virginia Woolf