The story of Eileen Myles’ time with a pit bull named Rosie is captured in the decidedly unsentimental “Afterglow.” The book brings Myles to Elliott Bay Book Company for an October reading.
She picked her from a litter of puppies set up on the street, and over 16 years, the poet and writer Eileen Myles put a lot on the small, fuzzy shoulders of the pit bull she named Rosie.
“I looked her in the eyes and thought, ‘This is my father.’ I was such a kid when he died, I had no way of dealing with it.
“I didn’t know who I was or what life was bringing,” Myles, 67, said recently. “And it brought a puppy.”
The author of “Afterglow” will read from her book at 7 p.m. Oct. 19, Elliott Bay Book Co., 1521 10th Ave., Seattle (206-624-6600 or elliottbaybook.com)
The story of their time together has been captured in Myles’ new book, “Afterglow,” which will bring the writer to Elliott Bay Book Company at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 19.
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“Afterglow” is subtitled “(a dog memoir),” but it is also a study in the best kind of anthropomorphism; it examines Myles’ relationship with Rosie, the dog’s dying, and the grief that followed.
But don’t confuse it with “Marley and Me.” Heavens no. One reviewer compared the two books thusly: “ … think Patti Smith’s ‘Just Kids,’ not John Grogan’s ‘Marley and Me,’ absinthe not saccharine.”
The book opens with a handwritten letter that Myles received from Rosie’s lawyer, saying that Rosie has been left money to obtain counsel “and press charges against her owner for a variety of abuses and crimes against dog kind. As you know, Eileen Myles, that owner is you.”
Was it a joke from a friend? A neighbor? Whatever it was, it inspired Myles to reflect on their time together, the places she took her, the dog named Buster that Myles forced Rosie to mate with, the “talk show” she created with Rosie and her childhood puppet. The countless, daydreamy walks. Her hand running down the dog’s back and the thoughts and images that simple act conjured.
It is poetry, it is fiction, it is monologue and screenplay with diagrams and drawings. A dizzying pastiche standing on four legs, next to two.
“Watching you is so much yoga,” Myles writes of one day in the park. “Each new attraction makes your head drop & turn & we see the white under maw which I used to call ‘velvet’ when you were a pup and now I call sort of a wash cloth.”
Myles did what she teaches her writing students, and followed prompts made from a “catalog” of Rosie’s things.
“I played games with myself,” Myles said. “You throw out a prompt and go fetch it.”
She was speaking from her home in Manhattan’s East Village, a rent-controlled gem she’s been holding onto — and holding court from — for four decades.
“My apartment and I had our 40th anniversary in May,” she said. “I am so happy to be home, in New York. I’ve been traveling like a clown. It’s pretty nuts.”
Myles is enjoying a new status, and new fans. Her 1994 memoir, “Chelsea Girls,” was reissued in 2015, just as she — and her work — were being featured on the Amazon show “Transparent” and the Lily Tomlin feature film “Grandma.”
“Transparent” creator Jill Soloway based a character on Myles at the suggestion of some of her writers, and featured Myles’ poetry on a couple of the episodes. The two later met and entered a relationship long enough for them to write a manifesto seeking to topple the patriarchy, and attend the Emmy Awards together. The New York Times gushed: “Cool? The epitome” and declared Myles “the poet muse of ‘Transparent.’ ”
Myles called that title “snarky.”
“I have done this for years; it’s just become more public,” she said. “It’s cool that I had poems in season 2 and 3, but I was like ‘Wait a second! I have 20 books!’
“It was all a good experience,” she said of the show, “and I am still connected to those guys. ‘Muse’ is the only thing that bothered me. It’s a feminizing word and the mainstream media doesn’t know how to deal with same-sex relationships except for ‘Who is the girl?’ ”
All that said, she does get a little thrill out of it. Growing up outside of Boston, she remembered watching TV’s “Dobie Gillis,” who had a sidekick named Maynard G. Krebs, a beatnik who panicked at the mention of the word “work.” Myles was drawn to him.
“I loved beatniks and poets and when I was an adolescent I was a poet for Halloween,” she remembered. “You could blur the gender thing. TV gave me a sense of what I could be.
“I am really formed by that. It’s so wrong, it’s right.”
“Afterglow” started years ago while Rosie was dying in San Diego.
“It’s such a boring place, it’s great for writing,” Myles said. “Every day is like every other day and old people love it and Rosie was an old dog. And when she started to die, it was what I had to do.”
She remembered attending a memorial for the New York poet and Museum of Modern Art curator Frank O’Hara (“New York was full of the legend of him”) and listening to artist Larry Rivers eulogize him. The way he looked, the way he talked.
“It was always something that I felt some awe for, and I thought, ‘I’m going to make that kind of homage to my dog.’ ”
She still thinks of Rosie, but has a new pit bull named Honey.
Myles recently had a picture of Rosie blown up and leaned it against the wall “at dog level.” One day, Honey had some “friends” over and Myles noticed that Rosie’s eyes were wet and running.
“There was this weird … Rosie’s face looked like this Catholic thing,” Myles said. The dogs had walked in and peed on her. The living dogs defiled the dead.
“The living always win, I guess. They have the last word.”