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WORST SEAT IN THE HOUSE, by             Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography


"Worst Seat In The House," by Eileen Myles, offers a terse but complex meditation on art, cessation, and the burden of public curiosity. The poem is focused on Joe Brainard, an American artist and writer renowned for his collages and memoirs. By posing a deceptively simple question, "How come you / stopped / making art?", Myles raises existential queries about the artist's relationship with their art, the audience, and their inner self.

The brevity of the poem is striking. Just a handful of lines on a page might make a reader question whether this even qualifies as a "poem" in the traditional sense. However, its minimalism is an aesthetic choice that speaks volumes. It mirrors Joe Brainard's own artistic style-characterized by simplicity, directness, and emotional honesty. Moreover, the brevity could signify the incompleteness or insufficiency of public dialogues about art and artists. The question is asked but not answered, hinting at an unsatisfactory or unattainable closure.

In asking "How come you / stopped / making art?", Myles taps into the public's perception that an artist's value or relevance is tied to their productivity. This question, while seemingly innocent, is deeply invasive. It presupposes that the cessation of art-making requires justification, as though the act of creation is an obligation rather than a choice. The abrupt halt in Brainard's creative output confronts the idea that an artist must continually produce work to retain their status as an artist.

The poem also conveys the collective voice of an audience-"Everybody / wants to / know"-a multitude compressed into a singular entity with a singular demand. This could reflect the pressure and scrutiny that public figures, including artists, face. The phrase "worst seat in the house," which serves as the poem's title, takes on layers of meaning. It could be the worst seat for the audience, stuck in a position of eternal curiosity, or the worst seat for the artist, under the unwavering gaze of public expectation.

Eileen Myles uses colloquial language and straightforward questioning as a strategic choice to delve into complex issues about art and artists. The unvarnished language poses the question in a way that anyone could, stripping away any academic or elitist barriers that often surround conversations about art. This simplicity serves as a double-edged sword: it makes the subject matter approachable while simultaneously emphasizing the weightiness of the question being asked.

In the end, "Worst Seat In The House" serves as an interrogation not just of Joe Brainard's choices, but also of societal attitudes towards art and artists. With remarkable economy of words, Myles tackles issues that are expansive and intricate-expectation, curiosity, freedom, and the autonomy of artistic expression. While the poem may not offer answers, it certainly poses a question that lingers, inviting readers to confront their own assumptions and expectations.


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