Young Poet Lily Myers on Going Viral and Writing Her First Novel
Lily Myers first fell in love with poetry in high school because, as she explains, “it felt free—like there was no wrong answer and I could write anything I wanted.” Fast-forward a few years, with gut-wrenchingly honest pieces (and viral performances) to her name, the Wesleyan grad is gearing up to release her debut novel. This Impossible Light, which is written in verse, comes out today. Before you pick up a copy, read our interview with Lily (and an exclusive book excerpt!) below.
Tell us about the inspiration behind This Impossible Light.
Both the poem and novel are largely about loneliness—feeling very alone with these internal pressures to shrink, fighting this silent battle. In the aftermath of the poem, when I saw that so many other people felt this same loneliness, I knew it was worth unearthing and discussing. That’s where a lot of the inspiration for This Impossible Light came from—wanting to explore, and expose, this certain type of loneliness I felt as a teenager and still feel in certain ways. The loneliness of your self-expectations, of never feeling good enough, of being unsure of your worth. For me, and I think for a lot of other people, this loneliness shows up in how we treat our bodies. I wanted to be honest about these pressures. I dug a lot into my own experience for the book. This Impossible Light is really my love letter to my younger, insecure, lonely self.
Who are a few other poets every girl should know about/read?
The spoken word duo Dark Matter is totally revolutionary. Franny Choi is one of my all-time favorites; she’s incredible. Caroline Rothstein is an amazing poet and a huge influence on me. Rachel McKibbens, Sierra DeMulder, and Hieu Minh Nguyen are also long-time favorites of mine.
You’re a huge self-love advocate. Can you share a little bit about your own experience learning to love yourself?
Yes! We live in a culture that makes it very difficult for girls to love themselves. From a very young age, we’re inundated with images and messages about how our bodies must look. We’re told that our worth is tied to our physical appearance. We’re told that we must keep striving to be perfect. And we internalize these messages. It’s highly destructive. Beginning to love myself first meant recognizing all these forces. Once I could recognize that, and recognize that self-love was an act of resistance to these pressures, that was a crucial first step.
Self-love also means getting to know myself, and being forgiving of myself. That’s still the hardest part for me—accepting that I am flawed and will continue to make mistakes. It’s helpful for me to remember that self-love is not something you achieve once. It’s a practice, and you can practice it daily.
You’re also big on body positivity. How old were you when you first became passionate about it, and what led to it?
For a long time I’d felt a huge pressure to control my body, to maintain a certain weight, to exercise constantly. I truly felt that my worth was tied to those things. Once I started learning about feminism and self-love my freshman year of college, I realized that spending all this mental energy and time worrying about a few pounds was stopping me from pursuing my passions or reaching my full potential. I realized that I wanted to think about more interesting stuff than calories all the time.
I love being grateful to my body, for functioning and keeping me alive and healthy. Our bodies are incredible! Can we love them instead of criticizing them all the time?
Read an exclusive excerpt from This Impossible Light:
How We Used to Be
A house wild
with mess and laughter.
Dad making soup on Sunday afternoons
in a huge pot on the stove
belting jazz standards as he stirred.
Mom painting in her studio.
Sky and I building pillow forts in the living room.
All of us driving every summer
to the Oregon Coast,
Sky and I speaking a secret language
reading chapter books
in the backseat of the minivan.
Mom and I leaving each other notes
going to the park
driving to the waterfront
on the first warm day each year
dipping our toes
in summer’s imminent approach.
My body curling into hers,
fitting so easily into the space
she made for me beside her.
a golden family video,
a memory of someone else’s life,
the girl I used to be.
A girl I barely recognize.
A girl I envy,
a girl I mourn.