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Finishing Line Press | 2017



In her first poetry collection, a chapbook about early motherhood, L.J. Sysko investigates the identity paradox presented by new life and love. Battledore sets sail for exotically familiar locales–pregnancy, birth, and postpartum depression–with “you” at the helm of your personality’s ghost ship. Humorous, too, Battledore pokes fun at mothers’ predicament. Charles Darwin & Candies heels, Elizabeth Bishop & Preparation H, and “the spider goat” each cameo in Sysko’s imaginative circumnavigation of a new mom’s wild world.

Baby in the back. / Beast in the mirror.

from “Drive-thru” in BATTLEDORE

“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. When the speaker’s breasts leak in public, she ‘stagger[s] back, back, // back like a wounded / cowboy in a western.’ Or, ‘like a cave explorer ducking past stalactites / hearing the drip of close breath.’ However, Sysko also makes clear the limitations of this glorification. She wants to remember ‘Eve when she was just Eve — no apple, / no snake, no man, no kids, no minivan.’”

Amy Stidham, book reviewer
“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

“A metaphorical cave explorer and deep sea diver, Sysko writes radiant poems that crackle with new energy and fresh implications … BATTLEDORE charts experiences, including the volcanic eruptions of birth and motherhood, that crack open lives.”

Lee Upton

“With ferocity and keen attention, L.J. Sysko bears witness to losses hidden in the everyday … “Spider Goat” is a tour-de-force, a stunning poem that brings together all the threads of this fine book, in which the culture itself and its prescriptions for happiness and progress are a kind of violation.”

Anne Marie Macari