Contributor Spotlight: Patricia Zylius

“Soil Song,” “Little Grandpa Joe,” and “Were you close to your mother?” by Patricia Zylius appeared in Issue 22 and can be read here.

We’d love to hear more about these poems.

“Soil Song” started out comparing healthy living soil to the dead medium conventional crops are grown in, toxins, and how destructive corporate agriculture is. It was kind of preachy. So I got off my soap box and concentrated on my own garden, how taking care of my tiny bit of the planet is my holy work — or part of it anyway. 

Were you close to your mother?” was actually a question my doctor asked me, and I didn’t know what to say. There was certainly love between my mother and me, and we mostly got along, but I never confided in her — it was as though we lived on different planets. Her life was circumscribed by old-fashioned, dogmatic Catholicism, and mine definitely was not. She didn’t want to talk about anything controversial or difficult. 

What was the most difficult part of writing “Soil Song?”

The hardest part of “Soil Song” was whittling it down, getting rid of the extraneous, while hoping something of import from those parts stayed in there. A hard part of writing many — most? — poems for me is finding what I can learn from it, what I need to grapple with, and not just saying what I want to tell others.

Recommend a book for us which was published within the last decade.

Horizon by Barry Lopez. I fell in love with this book, and I’ve always loved his writing. I love his honesty and humility, as well as the beautiful writing. And what stories!

If you could have a drink with any living author, who would it be? Why?

Oh, such a hard question. Today I’d say Barry Lopez. I recently watched the interview Bill Moyers did with him a few years ago, and I was deeply moved. I’d love to talk with him about some of the topics they discussed, such as the importance of language in these difficult times, and the Bach cello suites.

What are you working on now? What’s next?

A poem about vultures, and a couple about my late ex-husband, with whom I remained friends, and who keeps popping up in poems. I’ve also started an exchange of letter-poems with a dear poet friend. 

Our thanks to Patricia for taking the time to answer a few questions and share her work. Read Patricia’s poems “Soil Song,” “Little Grandpa Joe,” and “Were you close to your mother?” here:


Patricia Zylius is the author of the chapbook Once a Vibrant Field. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in California Quarterly, Passager, Catamaran Literary Review, Ellipsis, Natural Bridge, Red Wheelbarrow, and other journals, and on the Women’s Voices for Change website. Her poems have also been included in In Plein Air, Women Artist Datebook, and The Yes Book.