Project Description

Sylvia Byrne Pollack

Sylvia Byrne Pollack was raised in a music-loving family in Batavia, NY. In the wake of Sputnik, she chose to study science. She earned a B.A. in Zoology from Syracuse University, a Ph.D. in Developmental Biology from the University of Pennsylvania and a M.A. in psychology from Antioch University-Seattle. She is Research Professor Emeritus after a long career in cancer research at the University of Washington. Following a trip to Antarctica in 2007, Sylvia began to focus on poetry. Her poems appear in Floating Bridge Review, Crab Creek Review, Clover, and Antiphon among other print and online journals. She is a two-time Pushcart nominee, won the 2013 Mason’s Road Winter Literary Award, was a 2019 Jack Straw Writer and will be a 2021 Mineral School resident. She lives in Seattle, WA.

Risking It

These smart, funny, beautifully crafted poems show us a whole life lived wholeheartedly.  The various parts intertwine, just as they do in the book, which is one arc rather than separate sections. The riveting voice that leads us through them is sometimes refracted by other personas: The Deaf Woman, Letitia, the Black Dog, and Gregory, a talking stone.  The poems touch on food, love, the natural world, politics, joy and despair, illness and aging, and mortality, but always return, finally to joy and celebration.  They dare us to be fully present in our lives.

–Sharon Bryan, author of Sharp Stars

The best company has intelligence, humanity, conviction, and some je ne sais quoi factor: mischief; lovability; great dance moves.  Risking It is that kind of company.  Sylvia Byrne Pollack writes with relish about mortality and long love, deafness, the “frizzante bubbles of mania” and depression, from Mona Lisa’s erotic life to rabbit test subjects to a soulful beach rock named Gregory. Pollack’s poems are intimately familiar with the dark–especially her alter egos, Letitia and the deaf woman–but counter it with the bright glow of playful language and a keen, reverent mind. “Even the gristle/ goes into our mouths, is chewed on.” This collection is a delight.

–Kathleen Flenniken, author of Post Romantic 

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