poem index

About this poet

Amy Gerstler received her BA in psychology from Pitzer College in 1978 and her MFA in nonfiction from Bennington College in 2000.

Her books of poetry include: Dearest Creature (Penguin, 2009); Ghost Girl (2004); Medicine (2000), finalist for the Phi Beta Kappa Poetry Award; Crown of Weeds (1997); Nerve Storm (1995); Bitter Angel (1990), winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award; and The True Bride (1986).

She is the author of art reviews, books reviews, fiction, and various journal articles. She also collaborates with visual artists, and her writing has been published in numerous exhibition catalogs.

A resident of Los Angeles, Gerstler has taught at Antioch West and the University of California at Irvine's graduate writing program. She teaches in the Bennington Writing Seminars program at Bennington College in Vermont, and at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California.

Hymn to the Neck

Amy Gerstler
Tamed by starched collars or looped by the noose,
all hail the stem that holds up the frail cranial buttercup.
The neck throbs with dread of the guillotine's kiss, while
the silly, bracelet-craving wrists chafe in their handcuffs.
Your one and only neck, home to glottis, tonsils,
and many other highly specialized pieces of meat, 
is covered with stubble. Three mornings ago, undeserving
sinner though she is, yours truly got to watch you shave
in the bath. Sap matted your chest hair. A clouded 
hand mirror reflected a piece of your cheek. Vapor
rose all around like spirit-infested mist in some fabled
rainforest. The throat is the road. Speech is its pilgrim. 
Something pulses visibly in your neck as the words
hand me a towel flower from your mouth.

From Ghost Girl by Amy Gerstler, published by Penguin. Copyright © 2004 by Amy Gerstler. Reprinted by permission of Penguin. All rights reserved.

Amy Gerstler

The author of several collections of poetry, Amy Gerstler's book Bitter Angel won the National Book Critics Circle Award