Pew Fellow of the Week: An Interview With Poet Syd Zolf


Syd Zolf, 2018 Pew Fellow. Photo by Ryan Collerd.

Our “Pew Fellow of the Week” series focuses on the artistic lives of our Pew Fellows: their aspirations, influences, and creative challenges.

Syd Zolf (2018) spoke to us about their works in progress and the “conscious choice” to live and work in Philadelphia. Zolf is the recipient of the Trillium Book Award for Poetry and has been a finalist for two Lambda Literary Awards for Lesbian Poetry and the Vine Award for Literature. Their work explores memory, history, ethics, and the limits of language, with five published books of poetry including Human Resources, Neighbour Procedure, and Janey’s Arcadia. They currently teach at the University of Pennsylvania. Find more about Zolf’s online, print, and interdisciplinary work at

Rachel Zolf Q&A: Content Block 1

Rachel Zolf Q&A: Content Block 2

Which books are on your bedside table?

Right now on my table are I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem, by Maryse Condé, Whereas, by Layli Long Soldier, and These Truths: A History of the United States, by Jill Lepore. I am reading these and many other books as part of my research for a new book of poetry, tentatively titled We Refugees, that examines the racial formations and attendant ongoing traumas of this part of Turtle Island where I am a guest.

In reflecting back to the beginning of your career, what is the most useful advice you ever received?

Probably the most useful advice I received was to apply for arts grants. Receiving that kind of material support has been invaluable to the development of my practice. To apply and keep applying and not take it personally if you don’t get the grant; to see the process as arbitrary but to have enough faith in your own work to keep going.

Explore More