Elizabeth Myhr’s poetry evokes sense of a space of rare and desolate beauty. With each line in the vanishings, she delineates a geography that is as subtle as the subconscious and just as vast. We caught up with Elizabeth and asked her to give us just the facts.
WHO are you currently thinking of most?
I’m currently very interested in eighteenth and nineteenth century French poetry, the stuff that got T.S. Eliot going in the first place, poets that I’ve never heard of and that I don’t think anyone’s ever suggested I read. I’m also very interested in reading George Herbert’s work right now because his images are so good.
WHAT language currently fascinates you?
I’m fascinated by Sanskrit and Tibetan at the moment. But that will change.
WHERE do you find your best inspiration?
I get my best inspiration from very old, very obscure texts, books that most people haven’t read. There’s a lot of it out there, and it’s like coming full circle to read it. We have lost a lot of perspective lately thanks to the tech era. And yet the tech era makes a lot of obscure poetry and other literature available.
WHY did you title your book the vanishings?
Because I’m interested in what we’re losing—the ability to pay attention to the natural world; spiritual life as it manifests in visions and visionaries; the ability to be aware of, and spend time in, dreams; and the historical sense that gives our lives breadth and depth and makes our intellectual lives interesting. These elements are all connected. And to me, those connections are a lot more interesting than the connections between technical platforms and software. There’s a lot more to life than math, data, statistics, and engineering.
WHEN do you get your best ideas?
Alone, in the middle of a forest.
HOW do you want your writing to change the world?
I don’t want my writing to change the world—I want my writing to help preserve what’s good about contemporary Western life. I want my writing to keep the doors open to what’s totally amazing, to what can’t be quantified. I don’t want those doors to close all the way. We have too much to lose. Today’s poetry is built upon centuries of literature, literature written by people with incredible minds who took it upon themselves to work extremely hard to embody their civilizations—not just their personal feelings and emotions, but whole philosophies about life—into language and images for the benefit of their fellow human beings and their cultures. They wrote poetry because they cared to find out what was possible in their own centuries. If you write well enough, your work will reverberate in any culture through the fine work that goes into a great translation. I want to transcend myself and write something universal. It’s hard.