In her newest book of poems, Snowflake/Different Streets (Wave Books, $20), Eileen Myles uses just the meat of her ideas and discards the rest. To ensure her meaning comes across without any frill, she provides the fewest words possible—almost every and has been replaced with &, with with w, and because with cause. Even the poems' format adheres to this stripped-down style. Myles writes in thin strips down the center of her pages, leaving the remainder of the page blank and ripe with questions.
Myles's creation is really two books in one, a Jekyll and Hyde collection. Snowflake (labeled "New Poems") goes first. Then, halfway through, the pages flip. The reader turns the book upside down to read Different Streets ("Newer Poems") and continues to drool.
Everything about Snowflake feels lonely. The poems either portray isolated contemplation or report from the outside of human interaction. In "To Weave," she describes early-morning sex that she doesn't necessarily experience herself. In many pieces, Myles even beats herself up: "I don't know myself/and that's a sin" ("No Excuse"). Snowflake feels raw, describing bare emotions and all things natural and earthly. Myles writes about road trips, storms in Iceland, a dog's death, lambs, rabbits, fleas, and naps.
Snowflake depicts singular emotions—individual reactions and moments. Different Streets describes stories and togetherness. Myles writes about relationships, self-awareness, birthday parties and heartfelt cards, conversations, "our endless/sound. Our connection" ("Mitten").
Myles is a master of language. She pulls multiple meanings not only from words and phrases but also from syllables: "I do a lot of/wrong reading," she writes in "Rock On," "stretching a meaning (my name)/into a world/view. If/it calls Ei/leen/I look up."
Both parts celebrate imagination. On an untitled page in Different Streets, Myles writes four lines: "The new poems/are poems of healing./But first I'll/be funny." It's unclear whether this is an afterthought (describing the previous pages) or a disclaimer for the next set of poetry. The preceding poems are about pencils, and the one immediately following is about a dog in a barbershop. So who knows? And honestly, who cares? She invites readers to interpret it either way.