Finalist for the 2023 Miller Williams Poetry Prize
Selected by Patricia Smith
The Daughter of Man follows its unorthodox heroine as she transforms from maiden to warrior—then to queen, maven, and crone—against the backdrop of suburban America from the 1980s to today. In this bold reframing of the hero’s journey, L. J. Sysko serves up biting social commentary and humorous, unsparing self-critique while enlisting an eccentric cast that includes Betsy Ross as sex worker, Dolly Parton as raptor, and a bemused MILF who exchanges glances with a young man at a gas station. Sysko’s revisions of René Magritte’s modernist icon The Son of Man and the paintings of baroque artist Artemisia Gentileschi, whose extraordinary talent was nearly eclipsed after she took her rapist to trial, loom large in this multifaceted portrait of womanhood. With uncommon force, The Daughter of Man confronts misogyny and violence, even as it bursts with nostalgia, lust, and poignant humor.