The New England Scene: under the radar writers doing big things

Looking for some writers who have gathered a cult following, but may not make it onto your radar? Eileen Myles and Michelle Tea have been at the writing gig for quite some time. Tea is known as the predecessor of Myles and not simply because of their similar Boston backgrounds. They both write frank, honest, and deeply complex considerations of what it means to be female, gay, and a writer. Their upbringings give the backdrop to take ink to paper and write.

Their language picks you apart and asks you to hold up high the raw material they produce. It is no secret that female writers, especially of the obscure variety, remain that, a secret, without hitting it big in the mainstream. If you're looking for your expectations to be fulfilled, Myles and Tea aren't for you. If you're into writers moving towards a liminal space and disregarding censorship and societal norms, Myles and Tea are waiting for you.

Eileen Myles's collection of works include:

Inferno: A Poet's Memoir This work chronicles Myles's journey through the New York poetry scene from the 70s and 80s. It discusses her time with Kathy Acker, Anne Waldman, among others. It presents her true revelatory experience of realizing her sexuality and more importantly, that she was a poet.

Cool for you This work, much like Inferno deals with Myles's life to an extent. This particular journey, however, is that of her teenage years and her early 20s. The novel reads like poetry with amazing displays of poetic sensibility.

Skies  If it's your first time encountering Myles, her poetry should definitely come first. Its simplicity is reminiscent of Hemingway put in poetic form.

Maxfield Parrish: Early and New poems  A large collection of Myles's poetry.

Michelle Tea's collection of works include:

The Chelsea Whistle This novel chronicles both Tea's childhood and teen years in Chelsea, Massachusetts. She has an exceptional grasp of the language that makes Chelsea in the 80s seem ever present and ever contemporary. She willingly uses language that is aggressive, in your face, and hyper-sexual. There is a power of identity in this particular novel.

Rent Girl This is a graphic novel Tea did with illustrator Laurenn McCubbin. It chronicles Tea's time in and out of the sex industry which she found both exciting and traumatic. Like The Chelsea Whistle, this book is raw, rebellious and defies any and all social constructions of what is acceptable, normal or otherwise "okay."

Valencia  Unlike The Chelsea Whistle, this novel deals with the San Francisco gay scene in the Mission District. It's about an awakening of sexuality that is both intimate and politicized. Her uncommon use of language will grab you, creating images all too corporeal. 

If you'd like to check out Myles reading an excerpt from Inferno or look into some of her latest projects, click here:

If you are a fan of bands like: Bikini Kill, Team Dresch, Babes in Toyland or music of any Riot Grrrl or Queercore band, these writers capture that fervor completely.

Written by Margaret Miller on October 12, 2011


Anonymous on October 12, 2011


Too bad the library doesn't own all the Tea books. I clicked the link and got a bookstore - yikes!


Yes, some of her work can be difficult to come by. But, we carry her most famous book, The Chelsea Whistle, so if you are interested, I would start there. If you end up as obsessed as I am, then I am certain any of our DPL librarians would be more than happy to check InterLibrary Loans for you and see if we couldn't special order it for you!


Also, a correction, Michelle Tea is the successor to Eileen Myles, not her predecessor. I apologize for the mistake.

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