Now Online: Our Interviews with Eileen Myles and Jane Smiley



In the halcyon days of September 2015, when the weather was mild and Trump’s candidacy was moderately less terrifying, we published interviews with Eileen Myles and Jane Smiley. Our print subscribers have long since read, digested, and discussed them, and would no doubt greet any mention of them with “That is so two quarters ago”—but now, five long months later, the interviews are freely available to everyone. 

Myles in 1980, in her apartment on East Third Street, New York.

In the Art of Poetry No. 99, Eileen Myles talks to Ben Lerner:

I have some very … I don’t know if sentimental is the word, but I have some thoughts about what poetry is and how old it is and what it means and what it could be. I feel like it’s this old thing mumbling inside of me. When I first started to write, in my twenties, I did associate poetry with being fucked up, and poetry definitely managed something for me—the dissonance between the world just as we’re being invited to enter it and that whole world inside of you and what to do with that gap. I had a mentally ill grandmother who I had, and have, a deep attachment to. She kind of mumbled and had a weird little West Ireland accent, and when I started to write I’d swear it was her. I felt this grrrrr, like something inside of me that was not me. It’s very weird—I feel like I’m working for Eileen or something, like I have this job being her performer, learning this argot of hers, finding it. But I think it’s older than me and it’s older than my grandmother.

Smiley in 1976, with her dog Canute.

And in the Art of Fiction No. 229, our managing editor Nicole Rudick interviews Jane Smiley:

If you’re in a creative state, then essentially things sort of coagulate and you enter a state of hyper­consciousness—you can write for an hour or so, but it only seems like a few minutes because you’re so concentrated on it. I’ve experienced that a lot, which doesn’t mean there’s no frustration, but I don’t really remember the frustration very well. I remember more when the writing comes together. And I’m willing to seek out that coming together. If I get frustrated, I’ll go eat something, I’ll go open another Diet Coke, I’ll go the barn, I’ll distract myself, and then the parts in my brain that were working click and I get an idea. I read an article about how to learn to play a musical instrument. You practice, practice, practice on Friday, then you walk away. And then when you sit down on Saturday, you’re better. Not only because of all the practice, but also because of the walking away. I’m a firm believer in walking away. 

For the latest in our Writers at Work series, and to guard against future impatience, subscribe to The Paris Review now—and check back next week when we reveal more about our Spring issue, which will include interviews with Luc Sante and Robert Caro.