Release Date: September 13, 2010
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Award-winning American poet Amy Gerstler, whose witty, complex work around themes of redemption, suffering and survival led the Los Angeles Times to call her "one of the best poets in the nation," will present the University at Buffalo's 2010 Oscar Silverman Reading on Nov. 19 at 8 p.m. in 250 Baird Hall on the UB North Campus.
Her books, widely and deeply reviewed by major critics, are often cited for their originality and dark humor. They include Ghost Girl (2004); Medicine (2000), a finalist for the Phi Beta Kappa Poetry Award; Crown of Weeds (1997); Nerve Storm (1995); Bitter Angel (1990), winner of the 1991 National Book Critics Circle Award; The True Bride (1986). and Dearest Creature (2009), a 2009 New York Times Notable Book of the Year. Gerstler's published work also includes reviews, fiction and journal articles.
Rilke might have been speaking of her work when he famously commented that poems "are not, as people think, simply emotions (one has emotions early enough) -- they are experiences."
Her narratives frequently inhabit the shadowy regions between wilderness and community, myth and fact, profit and loss, dream and wakefulness. Whether frightening or simply wondrous, Gerstler's hinterland tales capture and hold the reader.
In "Visiting the Doll Hospital," abandoned, wounded figures -- "Eyes missing, or stuck open or closed. Limbs torn away" -- stand in for the physical or emotional casualties who suffer, in various states of dissolution, in the dark margins of consciousness and community, pathetically grateful for even a thimble of tea.
In "Lost in the Forest," the unnerved narrator expects to become wolf meat but then stumbles out of danger (one supposes) and into a between-place where she falls into the clutches of a decrepit crone who tends to radishes, leeks and goats with uncanny, coin-slot eyes.
In the poem "Doomsday" from her book Nerve Storm, Gerstler carries the reader through a realm of wreckage and despair until at last, she smells "the future's breath," only to find that it may portend utter ruin.
How about "Hymn to the Neck"?
Tamed by starched collars or looped by the noose,
all hail the stem that holds up the frail cranial buttercup…
Her poetry has been called "relentless, soul-searching, surreal and wonderfully inexplicable." Its descriptive richness lends itself to her textual performances and to collaborations with visual artists in such venues as the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Whitney Museum. Her writing also is found in many exhibition catalogues.
Gerstler teaches at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif., the University of Southern California's Master of Professional Writing Program and the Bennington College Writing Seminars program.
The Oscar Silverman Reading is presented annually in memory of the distinguished scholar and teacher who chaired the UB Department of English from 1955 to 1963.
From 1960 to 1968, he also directed and greatly expanded the University Libraries, and was instrumental in acquiring materials in UB's world-class collection of 20th-century poetry, in particular its Robert Graves Collection, the manuscripts of Wyndham Lewis and the James Joyce Collection, which has evolved into the finest Joyce collections in the world.
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.
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