Living Twice Squared: Stevi-Lee Alver Observes Eileen Myles at Sydney University

Eileen Myles performed at the Footbridge Theatre at the University of Sydney on Thursday 26th May 2016

Eileen Myles. Photograph Poetry Foundation (
Eileen Myles. Photograph Poetry Foundation (

Experiencing Eileen Myles perform at the University of Sydney last week left me floating in an indelible cloud of jouissance. It wasn’t as simple as hearing her read or the sound of her voice, it was interacting with a corporeal performance of poetry. It was witnessing a body becoming the beat of a poem, an act that changes something in the room, shifts directions, alters perceptions, tattoos the air with words.

It felt as though there was a collective transformation as language, moving through the flesh of a poet, generated a bodily response within the audience. When introducing Myles, Kate Lilley couldn’t have put it better: “an event with Eileen Myles is no ordinary event, in this country or any other… It’s a page-turning, hanging-out type experience… Tonight it’s as if we are living four times. Tonight, we are living twice squared.”

Myles embodies the potential of poetry as a public and political platform, rather than a private, silent process. As her playful energy enveloped Footbridge Theatre there was an undeniable sensation that language is what makes us who we are. She leaves us with the impression that outside of language we are unable to know ourselves, that we can only come to know what we don’t know through language and—through language—we can reach the limit of our understanding.

Eileen Myles reading ‘The Sadness of Leaving’ at Sydney University

Her rhythm is one of spontaneity and effortless precision. A single instant was born from each line. The theatre became a collection of shimmering moments, all buzzing and rubbing up against one another, in an unforgettable evening of poetic multiplicities.

“I love tulips because they die so beautifully.” ~ Eileen Myles

– Stevi-Lee Alver


Stevi-Lee Alver has had her fiction, poetry, and reviews published across Australia and the United States. She enjoys collaborating with visual artists, six-word stories, wine and cooking. Her recently published chapbook, Cactus, is available from Rochford Street Press

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