Amy Gerstler was born in San Diego and received her BA in psychology from Pitzer College in 1978. She subsequently moved to Los Angeles and received her MFA in nonfiction from Bennington College in 2000.
Known for its wit and complexity, Amy Gerstler's poetry often deals with themes such as redemption, suffering, and survival and – as critic Sarah Gorham puts in in 1991 – “strip[s] down all basic assumptions about beauty and truth and holiness, and begin[s] a struggle for redemption from the gutter”. In a review of her 2009 collection Dearest Creature, the Los Angeles Times called Gerstler "one of the best poets in the nation."
She has published more than a dozen poetry collections, two works of fiction, and various articles, reviews, and collaborations with visual artists. In 1991 Gerstler won the National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry for her collection Bitter Angel.
She is now a professor in the MFA writing program at the University of California, Irvine and lives in Los Angeles.
My below poem is inspired by Gerstler’s “BZZZZZZZZ” and uses some of the first phrases of her poem while also incorporating parts of the text for an online “love compatibility” horoscope.
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There’s a certain philosopher I’ve fallen in love with. His hands are weighty. His breath smells long, silent and deep. His thoughts are neither captives nor violent lovers. They’re capricious. Like stubborn cats they hide quietly in the darkest corners, and leap fiercely from beyond the shade. He thinks only of improving the future of the world and humanity, and builds pillars of books for the fates to rest. I watch him discussing the tides with the ancient muses, his eyes reflected in their perfect white spheres. I follow him through the cellar door of his airy chamber. Up a tower of a thousand steps I often chase him, gathering hand-written notes I can never read. But when I reach the room he is never home, having gone to find an answer. Yet I stay and bent down to collect the pages: my story scattered about the floor in beautiful circles like autumn leaves around a curious tree.