Eileen Myles begins her solo piece Leaving New York by telling how she got there: “I hopped on an Amtrak to New York in the early 70s….I thought, ‘Well, I’ll be a poet. What could be more foolish and obscure?'” pause. “I became a lesbian.” Then, in a dryly casual tone that occasionally spoofs the self-consciousness of her medium (“You can tell I’m using the space,” she drawls as she takes a long walk around the room), this street-scene Sappho uses her deadpan delivery and knack for relating observed detail to capture, wittily and often affectingly, a life lived moment by moment. She digs at the working-class Boston background she fled: “I am a Kennedy,” she says, ironically evoking JFK’s “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech, though her enigmatic, strangely authoritative gaze makes you almost believe the claim. Then, linking the perspective of her immigrant ancestors to her own identity as an “immigrant” into a poet’s dream world, she wanders mentally like an Ellis Island newcomer, registering insights on life in the big rotting apple to which she fled while ruminating on the impossibility of escaping the past. She addresses public and private issues–lost love, lust, homelessness, AIDS, the devaluation of the artistic process, her parents’ aging, Joan of Arc–but her effect is less to rouse political awareness than to stimulate personal reverberations in her audience. Making her Chicago debut with this collage of older and recent selections from her poetry, plays, and prose, Myles arrives here as part of the lesbian- and gay-oriented series “In Through the Out Door.” At Randolph Street Gallery, May 31 and June 1 (756 N. Milwaukee, 666-7737). Friday and Saturday, 8 PM. $6.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Dona Ann McAdams.