Inferno (a poet's novel)
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Inferno (a poet's novel)

4.04 of 5 stars 4.04  ·  rating details  ·  682 ratings  ·  83 reviews
"All the lesbian intimacy you’ve yet to find on OKCupid can be found in this book." -- Lambda Literary Review

From its beginning—“My English professor’s ass was so beautiful.”—to its end—“You can actually learn to have grace. And that’s heaven.”—poet, essayist and performer Eileen Myles’ chronicle transmits an energy and vividness that will not soon leave its readers. Her s...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published November 30th 2010 by Or Books (first published November 2008)
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i remember reading some kim gordon interview where she said rock and roll was paying to watch someone else be free. poetry is the same thing but no one pays and it's more personal and pure because, frankly, no one gives a fuck.

except. except.

this messy, score-settling, no-longer-pure-but-still pure memoir has some heft to it. both the heft of trying for decades worth of personal history and also like it was meant to be done right. unrushed. yet it also has myles' great openness, as if it really...more
Dec 17, 2010 Ariel added it
I wanted to like this a lot more than I did. The meandering narrative made it hard for me to put it down, but not necessarily in a good way. More of a this is making me anxious and I don't know where it's going so I can't stop kind of a way. Glad I read it though. Plus the last page really spoke to me. I have a hard time leaving parties too. Eileen Myles thinks a poem is like a party. I think a lot of things are like a party.
I reviewed this book for the Poetry Foundation and right now I have to stop fucking around with Goodreads and answer the factchecker's questions about my review. Anyway, spoiler I give it five stars. Eileen Myles is the god of you.
I quite liked this amorphic, slippery little book. Although it wobbled about with it's free-form structure lack-of-structure; it managed to never collapse under itself. It was like an engorged clit. Or a jellyfish on steroids. Slippery; because there's a good five to ten pages towards the end that are saturated with pussy; clits and labia, you'll know it when you hit it, hold on tight. There was one spectacular line elsewhere, "(...) and his pretty little asshole was like a bud when Rene found h...more
The subtitle "A Poet's Novel" makes me wonder what makes it different from say, "a novelist's novel" or "an artist's novel." Is it the gonzo approach to grammar, flow, story, and dialogue? Hmmm. Maybe that's it. Myles plays/writes using her own rules. If I were her editor I think my head would explode (after about 20 pages, I probably would realize: Oh, this is art. This is uneditable. This is freaking Eileen Myles!).
I like how this is essentially a memoir with the N-word ("novel") attached to i...more
I don't want to say too much because I want you to read it. I will say it Has a Part at the End. When I was done reading the Part I closed the book and hit it five times against the wall. It damn near killed me. You will see.

RIP Lola
"Myles, Eileen. Inferno: A Poet's Novel. (2010) pp228-236"
Wendy Kobylarz-Chouvarda
I had to read this for class, and of all the assigned novels it was the one I most expected to like. But it's the one I like the least.

It's not fiction, for starters, and that bugs me in a class for writing fiction. The author is a poet and it's the story of her poetic life. I am not that literary a writer. I am not overly-enamored of literary events. Just the same way I suppose I prefer musicals to straight plays; I am easily bored.
This book has a very long chapter detailing readings the autho...more
Elisabeth Watson
One reaches for some version of the hackneyed phrase: so perfect in its imperfection. My astonishment, for myself anyway, feels new: I can't remember the last time I loved a work of literature that's so MESSY. I think the 3 parts stand better on their own than together, but Myles has so much swagger that if she says these are her inferno, puragatorio, and paradiso, I buy it.

The great (perhaps healing) joy of Inferno is hearing a woman say EXACTLY the things I have needed to say for as long as I...more
this is such a good read for a time in my life where I am trying to figure out how to be a poet. here are some quotations I like from it about poetry so I can save them and also return this to the library because it's due tomorrow:

p. 52: "Poetry readings were like early teevee in that everyone had their own little show. Though teevee got more sophisticated (worse) poetry never did. It remains stupid, run by fools. It's the only way to hold it open."

p. 108: "I mean and I would definitely say poet...more
"Everything was pathetic and it wouldn't stop. I'm a mess. And I could show how that looked. I resigned myself to continuous movement. Like I'm drawing. Like if there is "a form" it exists independent of me, or else I'm complicit in it. I'm wandering in it. Underlining. Changing horses all the time. And each decision left a mark.
And I lay there in the hot New York night writing my poem to Alice, to Susie, to everyone I knew--about being--not in literature, not in relation to some historical for...more
I had not read any of Eileen's work before but was so impressed with this book i'm sure I will in the future! She has a wonderful eye for detail, you get under her skin in this book, it's a biography of sorts but the kind of biography I love, it doesn't just take you through the day to day, it delves into the mind, the thoughts that are running through her brain as she deals with life in New York in the 70s. She lives in an apartment in New York, meets the great and good who reside there, It alw...more
Filipa Calado
I picked up this book because it's about lesbians and poetry. Both of which I like a lot. On this it did not disappoint.

The story itself is very messy--good and bad. At first I was into it (how could I not be, when it begins by describing her English professor's ass); each section kind of creating it's own little world. Myles paints a good picture of mid 70s-90s New York City, and of the struggling poet trying to find a way to express herself. But in the middle section, which is framed as a gran...more
Lori Ortiz
This is a moving memoir I'd call literature. It is full of memorable psychological insight, plainspoken, inevitable prose, surprising candor, and even some humor. "Inferno" reveals the nuts and bolts of Myles's poetry. It is a coming out story set mostly in downtown NYC where she lived and crafted her writing. This book affirms her estimable wisdom. The cover pencil drawing was at first inexplicable, but its meaning unfolded with the reading. Recommended for anyone curious about this woman-about...more
Sep 03, 2013 Liza rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: queer
I read this because I heard it had a lot of sex in it, and due to some kind of error the publisher sent it to me for free. Other times I tried to read Eileen Myles I couldn't get past the feeling that she was full of it in the bad way, but in this book she seemed more sympathetic because there are parts about being young and not knowing a lot, and there is that great line about being an old crappy dyke with half a brain leaking a book. There wasn't as much sex as I was hoping but still some pret...more
Well looky here. I stop reading genre fiction and suddenly I enjoy reading again.


Myles begins her narrative with the same thought I had many times as a college student:

My English professor's ass was so beautiful...

And it just gets better from there.

Eileen Myles is the rock star poet--I love her poetry. This "novel" is part memoir, part satirical grant proposal, and part stream-of-consciousness-style anecdotal notebook entry.

She immersed herself in the NY poetry scene from the 70s thro...more
Bonnie Clas
Aug 22, 2012 Bonnie Clas marked it as to-read
I illustrated the alternate cover for this publication (which you'll see Myles use for readings) and my friend Steve designed the lovely cover displayed here. I can't WAIT to read this book. I've begun it through eBook format, but I don't want to hinder my experience with it so I'm waiting until I buy an actual copy.
If you were not a part of the New York poetry scene in its heyday, this book will not make you feel like you were. I really wanted to love this thing, but maybe I just don't get it. Maybe its poetry is beyond me.
Jay Gabler
Interesting from a historical perspective, but often a tedious read. Similar in approach to Bob Dylan's "Chronicles Vol. 1," but not nearly as successful.
This book is fantastic!!!

Check out my review, on Bookslut:
Apr 08, 2011 Amanda marked it as to-read
Heard Eileen read from this at Housing Works last night. SOLD, definitely to-read.
Jan 07, 2011 NL added it
So good to feel bad about reading this way past bedtime...
I'm pretty unsure how I feel about this book; I think my main issue with it was its total deviation from a linear structure. Not to say that non-linear is bad, but often we would jump from Eileen at 22 to Eileen at 34 from paragraph to paragraph, and it was hard to keep up with where we were in time. The writing itself was enjoyable and definitely flavored by her poet's instinct, but I found it hard to keep up with all the secondary characters in the book (especially with the time jumps). But My...more
Matthew Gallaway
I loved Inferno because to me it represents a perfect antidote—a kind of artistic redemption—to the depressing tedium that so often accompanies two-dimensional declarations of being gay in a civil rights era. To read Inferno, in which Myles decides to become a poet and a lesbian (or to re-invent herself, which I believe is why it’s called a “novel” and not a memoir)—and she uses the word “career” to describe both choices, which is painful, hilarious, and not exactly PC in the manner of much of t...more
Much like my experience with highly-praised movies, I opened Inferno expecting to be absorbed in a captivating and innovative narrative. Innovative, well, yes (there is, after all, an 84-page section guised as a grant application; why Myles uses that particular lens, I'm not terribly certain) and the writing follows unpredictable threads that sometimes halt right when a reader expects development. The highlights, for me, included the final sections of the book, which seem to focus more on the de...more
I mean, what can I say about this book? I wanted to underline every second paragraph or so. EM combines a natural facility for storytelling, hooky, humorous anecdote, and the intellectual & metaphysical brilliance one would expect from a poet of her stature. But what is especially excellent about this book, the factor that will make it worth returning to, is its risky quality - its refusal to stick to a linear narrative, its depiction of a life lived around corners - the suggestion that this...more
Sian Lile-Pastore
i've been reading this while watching the housewives of orange county -it's an interesting mix.

Finished! what a book! unlike anything else i've read this is almost like beyond literature! It's a mixture of poetry and memoir and yet is called 'a poet's novel' - alison bechdel calls it a 'shimmering document'.

so it's great and meditative and without a linear narrative, it was hard not to think of Patti Smith's 'Just Kids' while reading this as it covers a similar time period and place - it mentio...more
Oleg Kagan
Eileen Myles's occasionally stream-of-consciousness memoir novel is a snapshot of many things: the New York poetry scene in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, episodes in slutiness, the authors coming out as a lesbian (in which she describes her first three pussies, literally, in detail), and the development of her poetic temperament. It's a coming-of-age story with a style that takes some getting used to; Myles tends to end anecdotes with other anecdotes, then later pick up where she left off, and on and o...more
Carrie Lorig
yes oh yes oh yes eileen sometimes i disagree with her the way she thinks about poetry but i never disagree with her strength or the way i encounter it.
I loved the first section of this book. Funny and thought-provoking and evocative. I devoured it on an airplane. I laughed out loud. I underlined and asterisked in the margins. I told people about how good it was. But I was a little nervous to continue -- I had a sinking feeling that I would be disappointed by the later sections. And I was. But then, towards the end, it got good again. Occasionally the style reminded me of Gertrude Stein (in her more cogent moments). There were hysterical moment...more
This book blurs all sorts of lines. I have no idea which parts are fiction or memoir, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is what Myles is trying to get out: That she left Boston for New York to become a poet in the 1970s, and what poetry means to her. The most important thing. There are many accounts of being “collected” by the rich, becoming a pet to those who don’t (and could not) understand what drives her. The words blur between prose and poetry, between autobiography and dream, all explori...more
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topics  posts  views  last activity Bo...: Discussion space for Inferno. 2 45 Nov 07, 2012 08:53PM  
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Eileen Myles (born 1949, Cambridge, Massachusetts) is probably America's best-known unofficial poet. Her latest book is Sorry, Tree in which she describes “some nature” as well as the transmigration of souls from the east coast to the west. Bust Magazine calls Myles "the rock star of modern poetry" and Holland Cotter in The New York Times describes her as "a cult figure to a generation of post-pun...more
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“All the details of my life were in exact order and yet I was tumbling in them-out of order like a tremendous wave had hit me and I was thrown off the ship and I awoke or dreaming, or dead I knew not-no I couldn't speak.” 5 likes
“If passion was a substance I would say it is dark brown, and then blood red. It's like wet grass, tons of it soaked in mud. It's warm and it stinks like shit and it's unaccountably and endlessly good. It's thick and it goes on for miles and it isn't so much deep as bottomless and it holds you in its grip, you never drown. And then it goes. That's all you know.” 4 likes
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