Dearest Creature by Amy Gerstler

By Amy Gerstler

Hallucinogenic crops chant in refrain. A considerate puppy promises an interview. A caterpillar bargains lifestyles suggestion. Amy Gerstler's latest number of poetry, Dearest creature marries truth and fiction in a menagerie of dramatic monologues, twisted love poems, and epistolary pleadings. Drawing on resources as disparate as Lewis Carroll and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, in addition to irregular psychology, etiquette, and archaeology texts, those darkly creative poems probe what it ability to be a sentient, transitority, flesh-and-blood beast, to be hopelessly, vividly creaturely.

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Sample text

The desire to short-circuit the family structure is a common and ancient one, and is the subject of myths, dreams, and folk-tales in which it turns out that the persons we regard as our parents are not really ours, but that instead we are the children of kings or heroes, persons of infinite and widely acknowledged wealth, wisdom, and power. This dream of secret and inherited power belongs to Auden's Airman, who yearns for heroism but is also afraid of it, and afraid of failure. And this is partly because, as Samuel Hynes points out, the Airman's "thoughts are primarily about the Enemy [in part, our parents] .

Such reasons seem more sound and serious than the one Auden offered. Nevertheless, and in spite of its pietistic stance, the poem bears many important resemblances to the decidedly secular poems Auden was writing at around the same time. Prayer is in some ways uniquely a mode of utterance that is at once public and private. It is public insofar as it is conventionally part of communal service and ritual practice; it is an established and traditional means of commerce with divinity, and it has the sanction of churches and of ancient custom.

Consider, for example, this celebrated, and later suppressed, sonnet. Sir, no man's enemy, forgiving all But will his negative inversion, be prodigal: Send to us power and light, a sovereign touch Curing the intolerable neural itch, The exhaustion of weaning, the liar's quinsy, And the distortions of ingrown virginity. Prohibit sharply the rehearsed response And gradually correct the coward's stance; Cover in time with beams those in retreat That, spotted, they turn though the reverse were great; Publish each healer that in city lives Or country houses at the end of drives; Harrow the house of the dead; look shining at New styles of architecture, a change of heart.

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