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Leslie Jones "L.J." Sysko is the author of THE DAUGHTER OF MAN (University of Arkansas Press, 2023 Miller Williams Poetry Series, forthcoming March '23) and BATTLEDORE (Finishing Line Press), a poetry chapbook.


Her work has appeared in Ploughshares, BEST NEW POETS, The Missouri Review's "Poem of the Week," Mississippi Review, and elsewhere. An MFA in poetry (New England College), a Virginia Center for Creative Arts Fellow, and a 2022 Palm Beach Poetry Festival Thomas Lux Scholar, Sysko has received several Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg awards, an Academy of American Poets prize, two fellowships from Delaware’s Division of the Arts, and poetry finalist recognition from Copper Nickel's Jake Adam York Prize, Marsh Hawk Press, The Missouri Review's Jeffrey E. Smith Editors' Prize, and Mississippi Review Prize, among others. Her poetry has twice been shortlisted for the Fish Publishing Prize, judged by Billy Collins.

Her prose was honorably mentioned by Zoetrope's All Story, judged by novelist Anthony Marra. Other prose honors include: The Bellingham Review Annie Dillard Award for Creative Nonfiction, finalist; The Pinch Literary Awards, prose finalist.


A former high school English teacher and department chair, Sysko is now Director of Executive Communications at Delaware State University.

"In BATTLEDORE, L.J. Sysko digs in, dismantling motherhood and marriage with the quick thrusts of an oyster knife, eager to see whatever’s inside. Fearless, investigative, sometimes wickedly honest, these poems startle with keen, exacting language and a searing, incontrovertible intelligence."

                        --Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife and Circling the Sun

"With ferocity and keen attention, L. J. Sysko bears witness to losses hidden in the everyday. These consequential poems... are unflinching and unsentimental. The moving and devastating poem, “Spider Goat” is a tour-de-force... in which the culture itself and its prescriptions for happiness and progress are a kind of violation."

                        --Anne Marie Macari, author of Heaven Beneath

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"A metaphorical cave explorer and deep sea diver, Sysko writes radiant poems that crackle with new energy and fresh implications. In lines that are visceral, cerebral, and ambitious, BATTLEDORE charts experiences, including the volcanic eruptions of birth and motherhood, that crack open lives."

                         --Lee Upton, author of The Tao of Humiliation

"Sysko’s BATTLEDORE takes motherhood to heights of cinematic action typically exclusive not only to masculinity, but to life outside of the domestic sphere as a whole... However, Sysko also makes clear the limitations of this glorification. "

                         --Amy Stidham, Capsule Reviews

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Photo credit: Paige Critcher

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