Evolution, Eileen Myles.

Evolution, Eileen Myles.

Alternate title for this review? The book that made me love poetry. 

Evolution is American poet and writer Eileen Myles’ first all-new poetry collection since 2011’s Snowflake/different streets and follows the critically acclaimed Afterglow (a dog memoir), and I Must Be Living Twice: New and Selected Poems 1975-2014.  

This new edition comes to us bound in blue cloth and peering, through the cover and a painting, out a window — and, as you would expect from the gently stunning artistry contained within, the thing itself is almost perfectly representative of the poems and essays spilling off Evolution’s pages.

I should preface this all by saying that prior to reading this lovely edition, never had I ever before read any of Eileen Myles’ work — that which shall now hastily be rectified, as I rush to get my hands on every printed word of hers that I possibly can.

But, you’re probably thinking, what about that grandiose statement from earlier? The one about loving poetry. Well, here’s about that — as an avid avoider of poetry myself, I know all too well just how intimidating the technical intricacies of the art form can be. (I blame Keats.) But Myles’ poetry isn’t like that — it’s not overawing, even in the slightest. 

Myles’s writing is personal. It feels real, honest, and true. It is not wishy-washy — it’s frank. And that’s charming. And touching. And relatable. Poetry is not always those things, one or all, but Evolution is, and Myles captures that sense of startling honesty that you crave in any good book — whatever form it comes to us in — in a way that’s nothing short of sublime.

It’s hard to wrap up precisely what it is that Evolution is about, but what can be said with certainty is this: it’s about life. Myles’, yes, but also the lives of others — the pain and experiences of others — as well as reflecting our own. It is a deeply relatable collection of feelings, expressed in a way that is at once comforting, and at the same time, brilliantly illuminating. 

In her opening essay, a keynote speech, Myles says how she wishes to feel awake all of the time. And that's how it feels to read this collection — like an awakening. It is funny and intriguing and saddening but uplifting, all at the same time. It is the telling of stories as much as it is the art of poetry, and above all else, it is beautiful.

I feel like the last woman on earth to have discovered the brilliance that is Eileen Myles, but if, perchance, you’ve been wandering around in the dark with me, do yourself a kindness and pick up a copy of Evolution. 

Evolution by Eileen Myles is published by Atlantic and distributed in Australia by Allen & Unwin. 

It is available now, online and from bookstores.

Thanks to Allen & Unwin for the review copy.


by Eileen Myles  
Hardcover, 240 pages  
R.R.P.: $29.99 (AUD)  

Words | Erin Stobie