The Paris Review

Trump Is a Performance Artist: An Interview with Eileen Myles

Eileen Myles may be the closest thing we have to a celebrity poet. In part, Myles’s stardom can be attributed to the award-winning television show Transparent, in which a queer poet played by Cherry Jones is based on Myles. But while Myles’s stint on television—in addition to serving as poet-muse, Myles made a cameo on the show—may help to explain their rise to a level of celebrity usually out of reach for even the most successful poets in America, Myles’s stature has been decades in the making. In addition to producing more than twenty books, Myles famously ran a write-in campaign for presidency in 1992. Among their most cited poems is “An American Poem,” in which Myles identifies as a Kennedy, one who forsook the wealth and comfort afforded by a famous, successful American family for a life of poverty and obscurity as a poet in New York. In real life, Myles grew up in an Irish Catholic blue-collar Boston family. Much of their work, including the legendary Chelsea Girls, reflects on Myles’s childhood and the poetry scene of New York in the seventies and eighties. The last few years have been especially prolific for Myles, whose new collection, Evolution, comes on the heels of last year’s Afterglow (a dog memoir), which had in turn followed another book of new and selected poems as well as a new edition of Chelsea Girls.

I’ve long admired Myles’s work, and I taught their poems in a course on feminist poetry earlier this year. Current events and our political milieu made me especially keen to speak with them. We spoke over Zoom, a video-conferencing program—Myles from their living space in Provincetown, where they were teaching, and I

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