Scattered at Sea

Penguin. (Poets). Jun. 2015. 96p. ISBN 9780143126898. $20; ebk. ISBN 9780698183308. POETRY
"Pardon this frontal offensive,/ dear chum. Forgive my word-/ churn, my drift," says award-winning poet Gerstler in her opening poem, displaying her talent for threading heightened language with colloquial, offbeat wit (see, for instance, 2009's Dearest Creature). Her energy is high octane, sometimes even gleeful, as she surveys our scattered ways of being on this "hand-me-down earth." The frank sensuality—"thighs sticky, leakage streaked/ matted fur, meaty reek" starts the poem "Prehistoric Porn Film"—is a short leap to the just-missed closeness of men and women, individually and as genders. "I'd like to be you,/ for example,…were it granted/ me to test-drive being a man," says one poem, while another declares, "The dissonance of women. The shrill frilly silly/ drippy prissy pouty fuss of us." Even the more somber section "What I Did with Your Ashes" has its black humor, with the title poem opening "Shook the box like a maraca." But it says of the ashes, "Tasted them. You've gained a statue's flavor, like licking the pyramids, or/ kissing sandstone shoulders. I mean boulders," and suddenly one senses that beneath the dazzle here is a fierce, nearly frantic determination to hang on through life's bumpy ride.
VERDICT Accomplished and involving; for all poetry collections
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