Index of Women

Penguin. (Penguin Poets). Apr. 2021. 112p. ISBN 9780143136217. pap. $20. POETRY
Witty, conversational, ironic, Gerstler’s poetry portrays everyday scenes with psychic depth. As she mixes offbeat humor and dark observations, the National Book Critics Circle Award winner (for Bitter Angel) lets her words take her wherever they will—for better or for worse. Gerstler’s latest collection contains mostly language poems that work through a hallucinatory build-up of images and impressions. These come to the poet often as she’s doing something mundane, like looking at her dresses hanging in the closet (“Update”), or noticing the dirty dishes piled high in the kitchen sink (“A Monument of Unwashed Dishes”), which she eventually washes while reminiscing and looking out the window. Often, the poems revolve around such womanly tasks, and as she thinks about them, Gerstler sees that they amount to what she calls “a feminine epic [that] lives in her under wraps / like a field of sheet draped statues.” Throughout, she uses minimal punctuation, which inserts a swirl of energy into the poems.
VERDICT As her impressions flow together, they add a surreal atmosphere, suggestive of art by Toulouse-Lautrec
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