Syracuse Instructor Publishes Book of Poems
'Psalter' is Georgia Popoff's third collection of poetry, fourth book in print
An instructor in Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences (A&S) is celebrating the publication of a new collection of poetry.
Georgia Popoff—a poet, writer, and part-time lecturer in The Renée Crown University Honors Program in A&S—is the author of Psalter: The Agnostic’s Book of Common Curiosities (Tiger Bark Press, 2015). Psalter marks Popoff’s third collection of poetry and fourth book in print.
A launch party for the book will be held on Friday, June 19, at 7 p.m. at the Downtown Writer’s Center (DWC) of the Arts Branch of the YMCA of Greater Syracuse (340 Montgomery St., Syracuse). Psalter will be available for sale, along with copies of Popoff’s acclaimed second book of poetry, The Doom Weaver (Main Street Rag, 2008).
Stephen Kuusisto—an award-winning poet and author, as well as director of the Honors Program—is proud of Popoff’s achievement. “Poetry is how we recognize immaterial dreams and wishes,” he says. “A true poet must be part Sufi, part skeptic; both mathematician and map maker. In Psalter, Georgia Popoff’s narrator is all of these and more. The poems in this rich new collection are unafraid of the soul.”
Adds Michael Burkard, associate professor of English: “Psalter is a poetry of uncommon surprises. The varied landscapes of these poems are compelling, urgent, and tender. The poems walk with melodic insight in a neighborhood of life. Being human has an edginess, and these are lively edges.”
Nearly eight years in the making, Psalter is described by Popoff as a semi-autobiographical work where her experiences are channeled through a character known as Joy the Agnostic. “It represents my life as a poet, along with my questions, amazing moments, poignant exchanges, compassion, and outrage at times I’ve accrued from my work in public school and community settings,” says the Westcott Neighborhood resident.
That Psalter was accepted for publication by one of her literary heroes, Steven Huff, Tiger Bark’s founder and editor, has been a point of pride for her. “I was just so delighted that Steve took the book because he’s published some of the best poets in the country,” she adds, alluding to Huff’s previous stint as executive director of BOA Editions in Rochester, N.Y.
Phil Memmer, executive director of the Y Arts Branch and Tiger Bark’s associate editor, designed the book. “Georgia is not afraid to be vulnerable,” he says of her writing. “She brings tremendous nuance and sensitivity to each page. There’s something here for everyone—poetry that is immediate and universal.” Already, Popoff and Psalter have drawn praise from local literati, including Charles Martin, renowned poet, critic, and translator (“a poet of real accomplishment”); Jennifer Glancy, professor of religious studies at Le Moyne College (“writes with humor, ambivalent longing, and hard-won acceptance of finitude”); and Shinge Roko Sherry Chayat Roshi, abbot of both The Zen Studies Society and Zen Center of Syracuse (“an intimate and generous invitation into a poet’s heart”).
In addition to teaching in the Honors Program, Popoff is a freelance writer for A&S and Hendricks Chapel. She also is a faculty member of the Y Arts Branch (a partner of the Syracuse University Humanities Center and M.F.A. Program in Creative Writing), where she teaches and coordinates programming for the DWC and Young Authors Academy, and is senior editor of The Comstock Review.
Popoff’s recent honors and awards include the University's Martin Luther King Jr. Unsung Hero Award and a Chancellor’s Feinstone Grant for Multicultural Initiatives. One of her books, Our Difficult Sunlight: A Guide to Poetry, Literacy, and Social Justice in Classroom and Community (Teachers and Writers Collaborative, 2011), co-authored with poet Quraysh Ali Lansana, was a finalist for the NAACP Image Award for Excellence in Instructional Literature.
“My goal is to instill a passion for language, reading, writing, and the art of poetry in anyone willing to suspend belief that they cannot express or interpret for themselves," Popoff says.