Dearest Creature

The first poem in Amy Gerstler's thirteenth book of poetry is titled "For My Niece Sidney, Age Six." It begins:

Did you know that boiling to death was once a common punishment in England and parts of Europe? It's true...

Quite a beginning. The speaker in the poem goes on to discuss other interesting facts she learned in her encyclopedia. Through those facts, she connects to her niece, who is causing trouble in kindergarten, and already preferring books to people. She welcomes her niece to the rank of nerd. Gerstler's nerdiness is one of frank, odd humor, a directness mixed with an interest in the strange. In other words, it is completely entertaining and likable. Gerstler's book is a roving mix of dramatic monologues, twisted love poems, and epistolary pleadings. She writes "A Letter from the Middle Ages" in the voice of modern directness and gives "Advice from a Caterpillar." One would be lucky to have such an aunt.

This book review originally appeared in American Poets.