Dearest Creatureby Amy Gerstler
Pub. Date: 09/29/2009
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Hallucinogenic plants chant in chorus. A thoughtful dog grants an interview. A caterpillar offers life advice. Amy Gerstler’s newest collection of poetry, Dearest Creature, marries fact and fiction in a menagerie of dramatic monologues, twisted love poems, and epistolary pleadings. Drawing on sources as/b>
A surreal new collection from an acclaimed poet
Hallucinogenic plants chant in chorus. A thoughtful dog grants an interview. A caterpillar offers life advice. Amy Gerstler’s newest collection of poetry, Dearest Creature, marries fact and fiction in a menagerie of dramatic monologues, twisted love poems, and epistolary pleadings. Drawing on sources as disparate as Lewis Carroll and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, as well as abnormal psychology, etiquette, and archaeology texts, these darkly imaginative poems probe what it means to be a sentient, temporary, flesh-and-blood beast, to be hopelessly, vividly creaturely.
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If you're looking for knot snarls of intricate language or depths of dark thoughts, some dank tarn of Auber, go read somebody else...and yet. DEAREST CREATURE is delightful rather than oppressive, a gazelle rather than a mastodon. Frivolous at times. And yet...Yet there is something sinister about this poet. A sweet young thing with a stilleto up her sleeve. A touch of Chas. Addams cartoon in some of her stuff. True, the page-and-a-half title poem could be made into a chick-flik: "Why don't you/ write? Why make me beg? Are you even/ reading these letters?" And then the memory of making love in "the rusted-out chassis" of an abandoned car they'd found "while hiking in the middle of nowhere." A tangerine tree covered with hummingbirds. A girl who lies "VIVIDLY awake. Waiting." And yet, a poet who writes FOR MY NIECE SIDNEY, AGE SIX : "Did you know that boiling to death/ was once a common punishment/in England and parts of Europe?/ It's true." The rest of that poem describes Amy Gerstler's day which begins with her reading from a 1910 Encyclopedia Britannica, one of five sets she owns. She goes to describe (and admire) niece Sydney as one who pitches fits, is sent to the principal's office, howls like a wolf, has "the undomesticated smell/of open rebellion", sits twenty feet from everyone else, "reading aloud/gripping your book like the steering wheel/of a race car you're learning to drive." From here the poem wanders to Martin Luther nailing up his list of demands, raises questions about grace, and then back to the boiling of Margaret Davy in 1542 wondering how she went about poisoning her employer, the crime for which she was boiled. She ends the poem with "a fumbling word of encouragement, a cockeyed letter/of welcome to the hallowed ranks of the nerds/nailed up nowhere, and never sent, this written kiss." You remember seeing a play about an aunt like this. You wish you'd had one. Her ADVICE FROM A CATERPILLAR is precious: "Chew your way into a new world./Munch leaves. Molt. Rest. Molt/ again. Self-reinvention is EVERYTHING./ Spin many nests. Cultivate stinging/bristles. Don't get sentimental/about your discarded skins." Amy Gerstler has poems telling how to wear hats, one in which Mrs. Monster writes her memoirs, and finally the Chas. Addams touch: ON THE FATAL CONSEQUENCES OF GOING HOME WITH THE WRONG MAN FROM THE CHICAGO WORLD'S FAIR 1893. Her poems don't rhyme. They just ring.