In both genre and process, Amy Gerstler is a hybrid artist. Whether she is jumping between poetry, nonfiction and hybrid works, or switching back and forth between handwritten notes and internet research, Gerstler consistently bridges the gap between physical and digital media.
Growing up, Gerstler wrote poems in spiral-bound notebooks. As she got older, she continued to draft first by hand, then eventually on the typewriter. With the advent of personal computers, however, her process became much more fluid. Compared to the error-prone editing capabilities of a typewriter (not to mention the heightened sense of permanence that came with each completed print-out), Gerstler found computers a much more flexible medium. In this sense, her revision process for individual poems became much faster and more fluid once she had access to her own computer, and the ability to experiment with multiple versions (lineating prose poems, for instance, or re-ordering stanzas) in a cleaner, single-medium format.
Gerstler’s generative process has undergone a similar evolution–she went from using physical libraries to conducting online research, and now uses a hybrid of the two. She has taken inspiration from the unexpected juxtapositions found in library card catalogs, but also uses language lifted directly from websites to shift the tone and diction of a piece, and turns more frequently these days to the ease and efficienty of internet research for quick facts and data.
In transitioning from typewriters to computers, Gerstler’s main aesthetic shift was with regard to the typefaces and fonts themselves–particularly in terms of using italics and spatial differentiation. Prior to computers, she performed literal cut and paste with typwritten poem drafts, cutting up the lines and rearranging them with Scotch tape or glue to try out various revision ideas. Her self-proclaimed revision mode is ‘all over the place,’ especially when it comes to the tangential research or obsessive preoccupation that ultimately promises to get at the real heart of the poem in progress.
Once she turns to constructing a manuscript, Gerstler again toggles between digital and physical practice–typing and visualizing on the computer, but still printing out the pages and laying them out on the floor. The final collection draft thus exists both on the computer and in a hard copy, one or both of which Gerstler then shows to friends and readers before eventually submitting to a publisher. That being said, she isn’t ‘precious’ about her papers, and will often discard early paper drafts and notes once a final product has been published.