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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 Scattered at Sea (Penguin, 2015), which was longlisted for the 2015 National Book Award; Dearest Creature (Penguin, 2009); and Medicine (Penguin, 2000), which was finalist for the Phi Beta Kappa Poetry Award.

Gerstler 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.

Gerstler has taught at Antioch University, Bennington Writing Seminars program at Bennington College, and at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. She currently teaches in the MFA creative writing program at University of California at Irvine. She lives in Los Angeles, California.

Selected Bibliography

Scattered at Sea (Penguin, 2015)
Dearest Creature (Penguin, 2009)
Ghost Girl (Penguin, 2004)
Medicine (Penguin, 2000)
Crown of Weeds (Penguin, 1997)
Nerve Storm (Penguin, 1995)
Bitter Angel (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1990)
The True Bride (Lapis Press, 1986)

Hymn to the Neck

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. Soap 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.

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

Amy Gerstler

Amy Gerstler

Amy Gerstler is the author of several collections, including Bitter Angel (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1997), which won the National Book Critics Circle Award.

by this poet

Here on my lap, in a small plastic bag,
my share of your ashes. Let me not squander 
them. Your family blindsided me with this gift. 
We want to honor your bond they said at the end 
of your service, which took place, as you'd 
arranged, in a restaurant at the harbor, 
an old two-story boathouse made of

Rocket-shaped popsicles that dyed your lips blue
were popular when I was a kid. That era got labeled
“the space age” in honor of some longed-for,
supersonic, utopian future. Another food of my
youth was candy corn, mostly seen on Halloween.
With its striped triangular “kernels” made


Through what precinct of life’s forest are you hiking at this                 moment?
Are you kicking up leaf litter or stabbed by brambles?
Of what stuff are you made? Gossamer or chain mail?
Are you, as reputed, marvelously empty? Or invisibly ever-                   present,
even as this