As I settled down in my living room on Wednesday night to watch Eileen Myles chat to Rosa Campbell about their new novel on writing and craft titled For Now, I feared that I might be a tad disappointed with the live discussion.
Whilst I am a huge fan of Myles, the topic of discussion evoked awkward school-style ‘questions for the author’ where writers would instruct you to write something every day or keep a notebook around for ideas, as if the struggles of creative teens could be solved with something as simple as better organisation. My suspicions were thankfully not realised. Myles spoke exactly as they write, even noting themselves that they ‘flow in and out of the text’. Their manner was simultaneously laid-back and wise as they offered not only some of the best writing advice I’ve heard, but also conceptions of writing and creativity that were resonant and new.
Significantly, they remained humble throughout the discussion, speaking of a ‘deliberate humility’ in their work which enabled them to write. This humility, paired with a trust in the human ability to create, led to nuggets of insight such as ‘poetry is just poor imitation’, ‘write badly for a year’, and ‘the urge to write comes when you’re doing nothing’. This advice made me, wannabe poet of several years, feel enthused about writing, but also pleasantly relieved.
Moreover, much of this advice reminded the audience that the creation of poetry is as much about the material conditions of the poet as it is about any idea of talent – a much needed reminder in our culture of side hustles and overworking.
While we were far away from those cosy nights gathered in the bookshop, Lighthouse Books did all they could to bring a sense of community to the online event. Rosa Campbell proved to be a wonderful interviewer, jumping straight into an engaging discussion, and giving Myles’ work the intellectual weight that it deserves. Questions from the audience organically cropped up through the event, instead of pre-asked. They even created a mini documentary by talking to four other artists about their craft, to mark the occasion.
Overall, the evening was all you could ask for: great company, good atmosphere, and conversation that kept you thinking long after the night had ended.
Image: BEYOND BAROQUE via Flickr