University’s L.J. Sysko garners national kudos for poetry book
Delaware State University’s Director of Executive Communications L.J. Sysko released her debut full-length poetry collection, The Daughter of Man, this month to national and local media acclaim.
The Daughter of Man was released in early April by University of Arkansas Press as part of the esteemed Miller Williams Poetry Series. Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award finalist Patricia Smith served as series judge and selected Sysko’s book from among thousands of submissions for 2023 publication. In the book’s preface, Smith dubs Sysko “the risk-taker [and] the unveiler,” calling the debut collection “gleefully unapologetic.”
The Daughter of Man is a feminist retort to painter René Magritte’s modernist icon “The Son of Man” and is a multifaceted portrait of contemporary womanhood. Sysko serves up biting social commentary and humorous nostalgia while boldly reframing the heroine’s journey. ‘The daughter’ transforms from maiden to warrior—then to queen, maven, and crone—against the backdrop of suburban America from the 1980s to today.
The official launch of The Daughter of Man was held at The Queen in Wilmington on Saturday, April 29, 2023, where Sysko read from her collection before a crowd that included Delaware State University senior administrators Dr. Dawn Mosley and Dr. Lynda Murray-Jackson.
Early media recognition has included rave reviews and National Poetry Month reading list nods. Publishers Weekly reviewed Sysko’s book, writing, “This whip-smart collection is a playful celebration of feminine power.” Delaware Today Magazine called it “the perfect poetry collection to celebrate National Poetry Month in Delaware, for both poetry enthusiasts and cynics.” The Daughter of Man also topped Feminist Book Club’s list of recommended reads for National Poetry Month. And acclaimed poets have recognized the book’s significance; National Book Award finalist poet Ross Gay called The Daughter of Man “a clinic in irony” and former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins said, “This poet uses the language of everyday to expose the nervous realities at work behind human behavior… using bright language to make poems that are fun to read!”
The Daughter of Man is L.J. Sysko’s first full-length poetry collection. Her first book, a shorter poetry chapbook titled Battledore, was published in 2017. Her poems have appeared in journals and anthologies such as Ploughshares, Best New Poets, Tupelo Quarterly, and The Missouri Review’s “Poem of the Week,” among others. An MFA in poetry from New England College, Sysko is a Virginia Center for Creative Arts Fellow and was the 2022 Palm Beach Poetry Festival Thomas Lux Scholar where she studied with Pulitzer Prize winner Diane Seuss.
Also a prose writer, Sysko’s nonfiction was recently selected as a finalist in The Georgia Review’s inaugural Prose Prize, judged by Jennine Capó Crucet; publication of that essay is forthcoming this summer.
“I am thrilled that The Daughter of Man is now out in the world after five years of writing and editing! I am thankful for the encouragement I have received from my colleagues at Delaware State University,” said Sysko. “What an honor it is to collaborate with Dr. Allen, serve Hornet Nation, and match words to the HBCU movement.”
A former high school English teacher and department chair, Sysko has worked in the Office of the President at Delaware State University since December 2021, handling executive communications for President Tony Allen. He commented, “I appreciate writing partners who are creative and thoughtful. L.J. is something different. She is fierce—wielding words with the artistry of a painter whose canvas knows no bounds but always finds its way to compelling purpose, no matter how broad or intimate the audience. She has helped me face the grand challenges of a great University with that same urgency and force, and I am grateful.”
Allen continued, “All of us at the University are proud of her accomplishment and eager to celebrate the publication of this important book.”
The Daughter of Man is now available for purchase wherever books are sold, including from the publisher and Amazon. More information on the author can be found at ljsysko.com.