Amy Gerstler

b. 1956
Amy Gerstler
Known for its wit and complexity, Amy Gerstler's poetry deals with themes such as redemption, suffering, and survival. Author of over a dozen poetry collections, two works of fiction, and various articles, reviews, and collaborations with visual artists, Gerstler won the 1991 National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry for Bitter Angel (1990). Her early work, including White Marriage/Recovery (1984), was highly praised. Gerstler's more recent works include Nerve Storm (1993), Medicine (2000), Ghost Girl (2004), and Dearest Creature (2009), which the New York Times named a Notable Book of the Year.

In Bitter Angel Gerstler introduces a variety of narrators, including a saint, ghost, clairvoyant, father, child, and lover. Bitter Angel was enthusiastically received.  According to poet Eileen Myles, Gerstler's poetry is "extremely rich. But not cluttered and not loud." Myles added that "the supernatural, the sexy mundane, the out-of-sight are simply her materials, employed as they might be in a piece of religious art." "In Gerstler," wrote David Shapiro in American Poetry Review, "we see how effective a quiet ruminative and contemplative poem can be...On the other hand, Gerstler has a series of complex, humorous prose poems which can be as immediate and imagistic as a germ."

Gerstler's later collections treat themes such as redemption in Nerve Storm, medicine and metaphysics in Medicine, and a range of animals and creatures in Dearest Creature. According to David Kirby in the New York Times, Gerstler is a "maestra of invention...skilled in every kind of comedy, from slapstick to whimsy." Though often light-hearted, Gerstler is known for tackling important subjects with verve. Publishers Weekly has noted that Gerstler's poems "always have a distinctive spin [and] run through her abiding interests, the intersections of self, soul sickness and cultural drek."

A graduate of Pitzer College and Bennington College, Gerstler has taught at the Art Center College of Design, the University of Southern California, and the Bennington Writing Seminars program. She lives in California with her husband, the artist and author Benjamin Weissman.

Career

Poet, fiction writer, and journalist. Visiting professor of creative writing, University of California at Irvine, 1996. Performer of text-works and collaborator on installations in museums, including Museum of Contemporary Art, Santa Monica Museum of Art, Whitney Museum, and Josh Baer Gallery.

Bibliography

POEMS:
  • Yonder, Little Caesar Press, 1981.
  • Christy's Alpine Inn, Sherwood Press, 1982.
  • White Marriage/ Recovery, Illuminati (Los Angeles), 1984.
  • Early Heaven, Ouija Madness Press, 1984.
  • The True Bride, Lapis Press (Santa Monica, CA), 1986.
  • Bitter Angel, North Point Press (San Francisco, CA), 1990, reprinted, Carnegie Mellon University Press (Pittsburgh, PA), 1997.
  • Nerve Storm, Viking-Penguin (New York City), 1993.
  • Crown of Weeds, Penguin (New York City), 1997.
  • Medicine, Penguin, 2000.
  • Ghost Girl, Penguin Books, 2004.
  • Dearest Creature, Penguin Books, 2009.
OTHER:
  • Martine's Mouth, Illuminati, 1985.
  • Primitive Man, Hanuman Books (New York City), 1987.
  • (With Alexis Smith) Past Lives, Santa Monica Museum of Art (Santa Monica, CA), 1989.
  • (With Carol S. Eliel and Lari Pittman) Lee Mullican: An Abundant Harvest of Sun, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2005.
  • (Guest editor) The Best American Poetry 2010, Scribner's, 2010.
Contributor of articles to periodicals, including Art Forum and Los Angeles Times.

Further Reading

BOOKS
  • Gerstler, Amy, Bitter Angel,North Point Press (San Francisco, CA), 1990.
  • Gerstler, Amy, Nerve Storm, Viking-Penguin (New York City), 1993.
PERIODICALS
  • American Book Review,January-March, 1991, pp. 27, 29.
  • American Poetry Review,January-February, 1991, pp. 37-47.
  • Booklist, October 1, 1993; June 1, 2000, Donna Seaman, review of Medicine,p. 1839.
  • Library Journal, September 1, 2000, Ann K. van Buren, review of Medicine,p. 214.
  • Los Angeles Times Book Review,April 8, 1984, p. 6.
  • New York Times,December 14, 1990.
  • Publishers Weekly, December 22, 1989, pp. 4-5; October 18, 1993, p. 69; June 5, 2000, review of Medicine,p. 90.
  • Voice Literary Supplement,February, 1990, pp. 7-8.
  • Washington Post Book World, March 3, 1991, pp. 6-7.

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Audio & Podcasts

Poem of the Day Poem of the Day Poem of the Day The Poetry Magazine Podcast
  • Listen Save the Candor
    Poems from Rachel Jamison Webster, Amit Majmudar, Douglas Kearney, and Amy Gerstler; plus Reginald Dwayne Betts on what not to do if you want to write poetry.

Poet Categorization

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

LIFE SPAN 1956–

Amy Gerstler

Biography

Known for its wit and complexity, Amy Gerstler's poetry deals with themes such as redemption, suffering, and survival. Author of over a dozen poetry collections, two works of fiction, and various articles, reviews, and collaborations with visual artists, Gerstler won the 1991 National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry for Bitter Angel (1990). Her early work, including White Marriage/Recovery (1984), was highly praised. . . .

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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