Poet Amy Gerstler Speaks at LA Writers Reading Series


Amy Gerstler and friend.

Jennifer Rodman, Staff Writer

From the moment Amy Gerstler, a poet, fiction writer and journalist, stepped up to the podium in her hot pink shirt and black blazer pant suit, laughs began to echo through the student center.

Gerstler opened the L.A. Writers Reading event by reading excerpts from her book of poems, “Dearest Creature,” which was voted as one of the 20 most notable books of the year by the New York Times.

The Los Angeles Writers Reading Series is a biannual event coordinated by GCC English instructor Claire Phillips.

Both charismatic and enthusiastic, she shocked and entertained a full house of students with unexpected expletives.

A poem that particularly stood out was “Touring the Doll Hospital,” which Gerstler read with a serious and loud voice. She described what childrens’ dolls go through as their careless owners destroy body parts and faces.

“Sorry, I’m not good at mimicking a voice of a doll,” she said, aiming for a comical tone.

A recipient of the National Book Critics and Circle Award for “Better Angel” and author of 12 books, Gerstler began to pursue poetry when she graduated from college. Despite receiving inspiration from her favorite poets, including Dennis Cooper, James Fate, and Wislawa Szymborska, her passion for writing can be traced back to her mother.

“The delightful, limber, punning lyrics of old musical comedy recordings my mother owned made me want to become a writer,” said Gerstler.

She has been featured in several magazines, including The New Yorker, American Poetry Review and Paris Review, as well as several volumes of Best American Poetry.

“I like darkness and comedy,” she said. “I like to be able to understand things, whatever that means. I’m interested in emotion. I write poems just because I kind of have to or I’ll get grouchy and horrifying.”

Gerstler currently teaches at UC Irvine. Her next book, “Scattered at Sea,” will be released in June 2015 by Penguin Publishing.