Judging from the poem, Eileen Myles would hate this peanut butter.
Judging from the poem, Eileen Myles would hate this peanut butter. RS

Seattle is tilting toward summer, those holy months when many of us form a wordless pact, as a people, to stop working so hard and to go play outside more. The pandemic unfortunately jumpstarted that negotiation for some of us, and postponed it indefinitely for others. While I'm fortunately in that latter camp, thanks to your donations and attentive reading, my body is reflexively feeling just absolutely done with all of this shit for the next four months.

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I associate this particular summer feeling with Eileen Myles's legendary poem, "Peanut Butter," especially the lines, "All / the things I / embrace as new / are in / fact old things, / re-released: swimming, / the sensation of / being dirty in / body and mind / summer as a / time to do / nothing and make / no money."

You can find the rest of the poem in Myles's 1991 book, Not Me, available at local bookstores.

A few notes:

• First of all, this has got to be one of the best opening lines in all of poetry: "I am always hungry / & wanting to have / sex. This is a fact."

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• Aside from Myles's humor and the speaker's boldness of spirit, two things contribute to this poem's high velocity: short lines and associative logic. Though short lines always kinda slow down the poem for me, they make the poem look like it wants to be read quickly, and so after a few lines I stop analyzing breaks and start flying through the thing, noting only breaks that seem particularly meaningful. The overarching idea connecting all of these sentences is that all new things are actually old things. If you'll remember, the same idea anchored Shakespeare's weed poem. Like Shakespeare's weed poem, Myles's peanut butter poem is also ultimately about the endlessly renewing font of long-term love, a subject I increasingly appreciate as I age. Most love poems are about break-ups, make-ups, and new relationships. It's rare to find one about the pleasures of long romantic love.

• My favorite image that embodies this idea: "I’m immoderately / in love with you, / knocked out by / all your / new / white hair." The white hair suggests the lover is growing old, but the speaker focuses on its newness as a sign of life and fresh experiences to come.

• The other high-velocity element in the poem is the associative logic Myles uses to move from sentence to sentence. In these associative poems, which we talked about when we talked about Dean Young, the sentences seem at first like nonsequiturs, but upon closer examination each sentence is clearly connected to the next by some sound, image, or idea from the previous sentence. My favorite leap is the poem's first, where the speaker announces their constant need for sex and food, and then proves the case by immediately issuing an (incorrect) opinion about peanut butter.

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