Sydney Wolgast: Science, Strength, & Sweater Envy

Hi Sydney! I’m so glad you were able to join this Issue with both your pristine fashion sense and your conversational insights! First question: tell me about your decision to pursue a scientific career. Where did your interests begin?

I first got interested in science when I was a kid and was fascinated by watching live surgery on tv. As I got older, I really started to like the forensics side of things and took a forensics class in high school which was amazing. I still didn’t know exactly where I wanted to go career wise so I did a more general route in college and then did an internship as a death investigator for genesee county. From there I became an autopsy technician, which was incredible.

Honestly, I kind of fell into the career I have now in cytogenetics, but I absolutely love it. I am in training for the next couple of years but eventually will be diagnosing cancer and genetic disorders so it is very rewarding. 

You’re amazing, Sydney. I’ll admit I’m still trying to figure out exactly how your program works, but I’ve seen you steadily and determindely progress the past couple of years. Remind me what your job title is?

I’m a medical lab technologist in cytogenetics.

Gotcha. Awesome! And yes, your work is so important; without it, doctors and medical professionals wouldn’t have the information they need to treat folks and alleviate symptoms!

What career experiences have you been able to enjoy? What’ve been the most difficult aspects?

In this particular career, I think I enjoy how much it helps people. Coming from a long line of jobs in the death industry, I understand how much people just want to know what is going on with themselves and their loved ones so I think being a part of that is really enjoyable. I also just love the lab atmosphere. What is most difficult is how sad some of the answers are sometimes and that is a part of life but it can be taxing. 

Yeah, I can only imagine how difficult it is to see cancer and other bodily issues and illnesses. I so admire your resilience and hard work.

Let’s talk about your silk classes! What advice can you offer someone wanting to “make peace” with their body and their way of moving?

I think that when people are trying to make peace with their own bodies, what has really helped me is doing something that makes me feel strong and ive found myself focusing on gaining strength rather than what its doing to the look of my body. I have a lot of insecurities surrounding my body, but since starting silks, I have seen myself become stronger and be able to do things that when I first started I couldn’t even attempt. This has given me confidence that my reflection never will. The advice I would offer is to always give yourself grace, do the things your body likes, and do what makes you feel strong and confident even if it’s a little unconventional.

That’s so incredible; I think you’re wicked strong. Thank you for your advice; struggling with body image is something I’m moving through again now that my body is failing me in new ways.

Alright, next topic: I love living in Michigan! What about you? Do you mostly enjoy living here or do you ever struggle with this place?

So let’s talk Michigan! I actually love michigan because I love the season changes. I think my least favorite thing is the fact that the heat isn’t dry. I do much better with dry heat because I naturally crave colder climates so the humidity really kills me. Aside from that, I think Grand Rapids has so much community and I have truly found my home here. My weather qualms could never outweigh the love I have for where I live and who I’ve met because of it. 

Hell yeah. I’m glad you’re here! Okay, last question. I love ending interviews by asking folks What inspires you? Where do you find joy?

I truly draw the most inspiration from my friends. I have lots of podcasts that I listen to and books I read but to be honest I’m in awe of my friends every day and each one has a different quality that I admire and strive to be better at myself. I find that I get the most fire from the people in my life because not only are they amazing they are honest and straightforward so we can always have tough conversations and all come out better.

I think I’m lucky to be surrounded by people who have encouraged me over the years to really figure out who I am and what I love and find happiness in.

And I’ll always be inspired by those people who have helped me become me!

Thank you so much for being an inspiration yourself! I’m always drawn to your energy and the beautiful moments you create and appreciate.

The 2021 HYYPE Picks: POETRY

Visit our poetry shelf on

1. Burying the Mountain by Shangyang Fang ($16, Copper Canyon Press)

Utterly beautiful poems on topics ranging from landscapes to Chinese history. I’ve seen hardly a peep about this collection. Don’t sleep on Shangyang Fang’s lyrical debut!

2. Water I Won’t Touch by Kayleb Rae Candrilli ($14.72 at
Grounded in the year of the poet’s transition, these poems liquify and gasp; they present pain in honest and metaphored brilliance. Time and again, I found myself feeling so grateful for the love between the poems’ speaker(s) and their partner. A collection I’ll come back to for inspiration and strength.

3. Tortillera by Caridad Moro-Gronlier (Texas Review Press, $19)
Poems of family and identity, place and “the headiness of sex and lust.” Outstanding. Five stars.

4. Yellow Rain by Mai Der Vang ($15.64 at
An incredible and haunting work that details the biological warfare and physical torture of the Hmong people (largely civilians in remote villages) during the Vietnam War. Hats off to you, Mai Der Vang.

5. Goldenrod by Maggie Smith ($20, Atria)
It’s Maggie Smith writing exactly the poems we need at this moment in time, in this place. I’m always grateful for the expert blending of nature, image, and relationship in Smith’s work.

6. Hex & Howl by Simone Muench & Jackie K. White ($9.95, Black Lawrence Press)
An extraordinary co-written chapbook that plays with pronouns and fosters feminist agency.

7. Sawgrass Sky by Andrew Hemmert (Texas Review Press, $18.72 at
Climate-conscious yet hopeful, these poems reveal the worst of human greed while holding out a hand to pull readers into action and determination. Keep fighting with your pen, Andrew Hemmert!

8. The Vault by Andrés Cerpa (17.95, Alice James Books)
Tender poems of love and loss.

9. Gentefication by Antonio de Jesús López ($17, Four Way Books)
A book for the people!!! Gentefication rises up and storytells its way into protest and philosophy.

10. Embouchure by Emilia Phillips ($15.95, University of Akron Press)
These poems are both fierce and vast, vascillating between body image and religious guilt and a reclamation, physically, spiritually, sexually.

“I let her tie me up…
so I can’t stop her from telling me how
beautiful, how strong, my body is with the whispers
of her hands.”

11. Waveland by Ösel Jessica Plante ($16.95, Black Lawrence Press)
Heartfelt and cruel in its unabashed exploration of divorce and the freedom tasted in the after. A beautiful work.

12. Philomath: Poems by Devon Walker-Figueroa ($16, Milkweed Editions)
These poems meander through a small rural town, the poet’s hometown, and its many faces and hearts — some open and optimistic, others hardened and full of hatred.

13. Peach State by Adrienne Su ($17, University of Pittsburgh Press)
These poems, mostly centering on meals and recipes, tell of a deep and long-reaching cultural history, particularly those of Georgians and Chinese Americans.

14. Pilgrim Bell: Poems by Kaveh Akbar

skating through the pandemic: Stephanie Clark

Hi Stephanie! It’s such a pleasure to meet you in real life. You’re the first person I’ve met on Instagram and then brought to a real-life photo shoot. I’m such a fan of your joy and plant exuberance and kindness. First question: tell me about your paintings! I just found out you’re also an artist (in addition to all your other amazing hobbies and career pursuits). How did you get started? Why is painting your favorite medium?

Drawing and painting are things I’ve done for as long as I can remember, but I started using my current style of acrylic painting when I entered high school. I started experimenting with a lot of different mediums around that time, and acrylic paint turned out to be my favorite. I can usually produce some pretty bold, solid colors with it, and I love that it dries quickly. My favorite thing about painting is that it allows me to observe and reproduce colors that may not be immediately obvious when you look at something. There’s a whole rainbow of colors even in items that appear to have only one! 

What experiences have you been able to enjoy because of art?
There are so many treasured experiences that being a part of the West Michigan art community has given me, but my most recent favorites have been doing murals for the city of Grand Rapids this summer, hosting my first in-person art sale during the May 2021 Art Hop (I was sponsored by the lovely Kalamazoo State Theatre), and seeing my work get tattoed. There is truly no feeling like seeing something I drew immortalized on someone’s skin, and several really cool people gave me that joy this year! I am deeply honored that my art is a part of some people’s daily lives.

I‘d love to know about your research projects and experiences.
I started my first round of field research in the summer of 2018 right after my junior year of college. I had recently decided that I wanted to be an Ecologist instead of a Veterinarian, and I knew that spending a summer deep in the woods of rural Michigan would help me figure out if this was the right path.

My research partner and I were studying an invasive plant species called Multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora) at the gorgeous Pierce Cedar Creek Institute, and since I’d lived my entire life in the city of Grand Rapids, I felt like I was entirely out of my depth at first. I was battling a pretty intense phobia of insects at the time (which is ironic given my current research), so there was definitely an adjustment period. I ended up conquering my fear by learning as much as I could about the insects I frequently encountered, and eventually I became very comfortable with them and the outdoors by the end of that summer.

That’s awesome!

I graduated with my B.S. in Biological Sciences at the end of 2018 and immediately started working for the West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC) as an Environmental Education intern. This experience allowed me to develop a passion for science communication and sharing my love of plants and insects with different audiences. In the second half of 2019 I began working for both Kellogg Biological Station in Hickory Corners and The Plant Parlor in Grand Rapids. I was able to develop my skills as an entomologist by trapping and identifying ants in the lab while also strengthening my skills as a botanist by memorizing everything I could about the plants I tended.

I’m currently in the second year of my PhD, and my research centers on how butterflies and moths are affected by climate change and human activity. There’s a massive and very concerning insect decline happening worldwide, and I want to do my part to help figure it out. Although plants are not the main focus of my research anymore, I still get to feed my inner botanist by raising thousands of them for my caterpillars to demolish each summer. Since my entire graduate school experience has been during the pandemic, it’s certainly been difficult in some unforeseen ways, but I am forever grateful that I get to study and interact with the organisms I love all the time. 

Absolutely! I imagine that it’s incredibly satisfying to combine so many of your interests and loves in your studies. New topic: what advice can you offer someone wanting to “make peace” with their body and their way of moving?
I started roller skating a few months before entering a very painful time in my life, and it was the only activity that helped me feel anything other than turmoil for a long time. When I was at my worst, skating was the only thing that got a genuine smile out of me due to the sheer joy of what my body could do. Whether its skating or any other type of movement – my best advice is to let it transcend your thoughts and become a form of meditation. Use it as a way to celebrate and check in with your physical body since we live our whole lives in these strange little meat suits. Even if we never make peace with all parts of ourselves, movement can help us make incredible amounts of progress.

What’s your favorite thing about living in Michigan? Your least favorite?

Due to the oddity of my profession, I get to live in the woods and observe some incredibly beautiful wildlife every day. Living in rural Michigan has given me so much insight into who am without the convenience and bustle of a city. My spiritual beliefs are entirely nature-based, so being immersed in the seasonal changes of the woods around me has been insightful and comforting in ways I didn’t know I needed. My least favorite things about Michigan are the cold and the racists.

Ugh, yep, both of those things suck in very different ways. Thank you for your honesty! Last question: where do you draw inspiration? What art, books, music, etc. bring you joy and/or insight?
I draw a lot of inspiration from my dreams and nature. I have had extremely vivid, meaningful, and intense dreams since I was a child, and I’ve found that documenting them over the past year has given me endless fuel for my artistic endeavors. My favorite animals, snakes and crows, are often in my dreams and in my art. When drawing or painting organisms, I almost always reference natural science field guides for anatomy and color. The artists whose work is featured in these books have my undying respect due to how detailed and realistic their craft is required to be. I have several insect, plant, and bird field guides in my personal library and am always looking for more! 

Follow Stephanie’s adventures on Instagram and check out her art here!

The 2021 hyypelist of books


  1. The Arsonists’ City by Hala Alyan
  2. Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley

    This novel is intense and delightful and grief-laden. Angeline Boulley weaves 18-year-old Daunis Fontaine into a story of loss, drug addiction, and familial bonds. I couldn’t put it down after the fourth chapter. I don’t want to spoil it too much so just trust me, you’ll be swept up in the drama and beauty of this story.
  3. Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid ($16.99 at

    Wow! If you’re familiar with Taylor Jenkins Reid’s previous works, — particularly The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and Daisy Jones & The Six — it’ll come as no surprise to you that Malibu Rising knocks it out of the park again. This story follows a family living in Malibu from the 1960s through 1983; four siblings throw an annual party and unlock secrets of their parents’ past, grapple with financial strains and gains, and learn how to become their own persons, separate and lively outside of the expectations of others and the eyes of the public.
  4. The Seed Keeper by Diane Wilson

    This novel is perfect for those whose hearts are tugged at the slightest mention of soil quality deterioration, water pollution, and pesticide overuse. The Seed Keeper details the homegoing of Rosalie Iron Wing, a farmer who retraces her Dakota roots; then, the novel turns and begins retelling the slaughter and displacement of the Dakota peoples in the 1800s, tribal recollections rich with wisdom and yearning. Through the weaving together of generational stories, this book reminds readers of the importance of seeds, Indigenous worldviews, and each other.
  5. Home Is Not a Country by Safia Elhillo 

    This haunting novel-in-verse follows young Nima as she decodes the truth behind her birth and chases a higher self-esteem and sense of belonging. Outstanding story and gorgeous writing, although I’d expect nothing less from Safia Elhillo!
  6. Tell Me How To Be by Neel Patel

    I was completely unfamiliar with Neel Patel before picking up Tell Me How To Be, so I’ll admit I judged it by its cover and was blown away by the intricate prose and quick-paced narration. The story follows two narrators: Renu, an immigrant mother who has just lost her husband and is figuring out where her life will go after his passing; and her son Akash, an amateur music producer and lyricist who has never come out to his family as gay and is struggling to love and live and find freedom. A five-star read. Such a fantastic and emotional journey.
  7. The Rock Eaters by Brenda Peynado
  8. Imagine a Death by Janice Lee
  9. Heartwood by Nikky Finney
  10. Mixed Company: Stories by Jenny Shank
  11. When the Apricots Bloom by Gina Wilkinson

Memoirs, Essays, Politics

  1. Demystifying Disability: What to Know, What to Say, and How to Be an Ally by Emily Ladau

    Hello! Disabled reader here! This book is truly amazing and a MUST-READ for everyone. @emilyladau has done a fantastic job of explaining, empathizing with, and encapsulating what it’s like to be a disabled person in an ableist world.

    I learned so much about my own experiences and gained vocabulary to discuss barriers to access. Pain and chronic illness is something that ALWAYS exists in my functioning and living. I’m never not-disabled. I’m never in a situation where my disabilities and pain aren’t affecting my experience. I also learned how much of my language is still stuck in ableist patterns (particularly the words stupid and dumb, which I’m now actively trying to replace).

    I also learned about the history of disability activism and the fight for rights, which extends into today and will continue to be a major fight for years to come (unfortunately).

    This book is hella important, hella wise, and hella necessary. As Emily points out, disability is the only identity that anyone could take on at any time (especially right now with so many folks experiencing severe long-term effects from covid).
  2. Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner ($24.79)

    Michelle Zauner, the voice and musician behind Japanese Breakfast, writes through her childhood and teen years, exploring both the closeness and standoffishness of her relationship with her mother. When her mother becomes sick, she and her partner change their lives to pause their creative pursuits and make the last months of her mother’s life memorable and lasting; this memoir is grief-heavy in the best way possible.
  3. Goodbye, Again by Jonny Sun ($18.39)

    Outstanding mini-essays that can be both meditations and discussion starters. Both written and illustrated by Jonny Sun, Goodbye, Again offers insight into his life and anxieties that is sharp and relatable. I highly recommend this collection, especially for the busy reader.
  4. Space-Time Colonialism: Alaska’s Indigenous and Asian Entanglements by Juliana Hu Pegues
  5. Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed: 15 Voices from the Latinx Diaspora edited by Saraciea J. Fennell
  6. New Moons: Contemporary Writing by North American Muslims edited by Kazim Ali
  7. Set Boundaries, Find Peace by Nedra Glover Tawwab
  8. The Precipice by Noam Chomsky

    Fantastic political writing that’s helped me personally understand what the $*%)# is going on in the minds of many I care about who are misguided and trusting in an ideology that harms everyone but the rich.
  9. Dear Memory: Letters on Writing, Silence and Grief by Victoria Chang
  10. Sexual Justice by Alexandra Brodsky
  11. Sunbelt Blues: The Failure of American Housing by Andrew Ross
  12. A Carnival of Snackery by David Sedaris
  13. I’m Possible: A Story of Survival, a Tuba, and the Small Miracle of a Big Dream by Richard Antoine White
  14. The Unseen Body: A Doctor’s Journey Through the Hidden Wonders of Human Anatomy by Jonathan Reisman
  15. Being a Human by Charles Foster

Nonfiction: Nature Writing

  1. The Atlas of a Changing Climate by Brian Buma
  2. The Nature of Oaks: The Rich Ecology of Our Most Essential Native Trees by Douglas W. Tallamy
  3. Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law by Mary Roach
  4. Our National Forests: Stories from America’s Most Important Public Lands by Greg M. Peters
  5. Finding the Mother Tree by Suzanne Simard

Additional Mentions

Book of the Other: small in comparison by Truong Tran

The 2021 HYYPE PICKS: music

Don’t just read the rankings! Listen to the Spotify playlist here:

2021’s best emerging artist!

PawPaw Rod

2021’s 50 best albums!

Call Me If You Get Lost by Tyler, the Creator

1. Sometimes I Might Be Introvert by Little Simz

2. Liquor Store by Remi Wolf

3. Drayan! by Kai Whiston

4. Happier Than Ever by Billie Eilish

5. Loving in Stereo by Jungle

6. Jubilee by Japanese Breakfast

7. Call Me If You Get Lost by Tyler, the Creator

8. Friends That Break Your Heart by James Blake



10. WINK by CHAI

11. Vince Staples by Vince Staples

12. Long Lost by Lord Huron

13. By the Time I Get to Phoenix by Injury Reserve

14. Screen Violence by CHVRCHES

15. Scaled and Icy by Twenty One Pilots

a liquid breakfast by AUDREY NUNA

16. a liquid breakfast by AUDREY NUNA

The Rise & Fall of Loverboy

17. The Rise & Fall of Loverboy by Sir Sly

18. Mood Valiant by Hiatus Kaiyote

19. Elephant in the Room by Mick Jenkins

20. All Day Gentle Hold! by Porches

21. If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power by Halsey

22. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings by Various Artists

23. Mother by Cleo Sol

24. I’ve Got Some Living To Do by Jelani Aryeh

I’ve Got Some Living To Do by Jelani Aryeh

25. Super Monster by Claud

i know i’m funny haha by Faye Webster

26. if i could make it go quiet by girl in red

27. Hotel Surrender by Chet Faker

28. Floatin’ by Cool Company

29. I Know I’m Funny haha by Faye Webster

30. DEACON by serpentwithfeet

31. Going Mainstream by Coast Modern

32. And Then Life Was Beautiful by Nao

33. Any Shape You Take by Indigo De Souza

Going Mainstream by Coast Modern

34. The Fight (Remixed / Extended) by Overcoats

35. Butterfly 3000 by King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard

36. The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack by Saint Motel

37. Big Femme Energy Volume 1 by Femme It Forward

38. Today We’re the Greatest by Middle Kids

39. Smiling With No Teeth by Genesis Owusu

40. Ashlyn by Ashe

41. Ostinato, by Xavier Euphory

Smiling With No Teeth by Genesis Owusu


43. A Woman by Qveen Herby

44. Harmony House by Dayglow

45. MONTERO by Lil Nas X

46. Letter Blue by Wet

47. The Million Masks of God by Manchester Orchestra

48. Sunny Boy by Ritt Momney

49. Out in the Ether by Kevin Devine

50. Bodies of Water by Moontype

2021’s best EPs!

  1. A PawPaw Rod EP by PawPaw Rod
  2. Sad Night Dynamite by Sad Night Dynamite
  3. Full Circle by Hamzaa
  4. SG8* by Duckwrth
  5. LUNO by Blood Cultures
  6. Civilisation by Kero Kero Bonito
  7. Hallowqveen by Qveen Herby
  8. VANISHING ACT I: NO NOUNS by Clarence Clarity
  9. parallel universe pt. 1 by Alaina Castillo
  10. Are You Happy by NNAMDÏ
  11. Scout by Samia
  12. Where Have All the Flowers Gone? by Deb Never
  13. AZEB by Mereba
  15. Last Year Was Weird, Vol. 3 by Tkay Maidza
  16. MONOPHOBIA by Reality Check
  17. MOTOR FUNCTION by binki
  18. Four° In Winter by Rachel Chinouriri
  19. The Witness by SUUNS
  21. Voyager by Valerie Broussard
  22. Digital Meadow by Dora Jar
  23. An Overview on Phenomenal Nature by Cassandra Jenkins
  24. A Piper for Janet by Cosmo Pyke
  25. Stein $200 by Louis Prince
  26. And Friends by Jae Stephens
  27. Ode by Kwaku Asante
  28. Table for Two by Lucky Daye
  29. See The Hue by Atlantic Canyons
  30. Fragments of a Dying Star by Dispirited Spirits
  31. Masquerade by Darren Criss
AZEB by Mereba

The Endangered Mussels of Eastern North America Rise Up

Green blossoms blanket the streambed and white
and purple cat’s paws tread among them.

All are welcome to the rebellion of filtration.

Mussels, if they had eyes,
Would see only through the shifting light
Of flowing water so they don’t discriminate for looks.
Wartybacks and threeridges,
Pimplebacks and tubercled blossoms,
Monkeyfaces and sheepsnoses
Are all there.

A purple bankclimber scouts the way

And a pale Lilliput and littlewing pearly
Shall lead them.

Even those that sound like fighters—
Snuffboxes, cracking pearlymussels,
Pink muckets and scaleshells—

Theirs is a bottom rebellion.
Filtering runoff,
Rebounding after dams come down.

For years they have
And for years they will
Flail their unprotected flesh
Outside the spectacle cases of their shells
And lure a fish to bear their offspring upstream.

Some future generation will do so without
The names of industry or exploitation.

Andrew Blok is a freelance environmental journalist and writer living in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He is slowly but steadily learning all he can about Michigan’s native plants and animals. Despite growing up on the west coast, he has come to love the Great Lakes.

things I did not inherit from my mother

The green thumb that stems from her palm,
dredging up plants and settling them into the earth
like children tucked into beds. I can’t help
the envy I have for these roots being nurtured.
I wish I too could bloom
from the underground.

The way she pulses magic through her palmistry,
she creates without having to
lift a finger.

I did not get the patience of my mother:
a beautiful virtue which makes her seem saintly.
I collapse,
I deconstruct,
while she in all her years has learned
to build


Emily Ferrera is a professional writer in Grand Rapids. Poetry is her passion, but she loves all things creative and does photography, illustration, and sewing projects in her spare time.

head full of bees

I think my head is full of bees.
And they’re just buzzing,
And buzzing
And buzzing
And they won’t shut up.

They aren’t buzzing extra loud.
And they definitely aren’t doing it quietly.
But they just won’t stop.

I’ve tried to make them go away,
Or even just be quiet.
I’ve tried, and tried,
And tried.
But nothing ever happens.

I think the bees just don’t care.
So I guess I’ve learned to accept,
That the bees will always be here.

Kaydence is a tenth-grade student at City High Middle, they often find themselves writing poetry alone, only to then want to share it with the world. They enjoy drawing, cooking, fantasy world-building, and listening to music. They’ve found that they have always been drawn to the arts and have no plans on changing that about themself.


If you thought
the moon was missing
one piece this morning,
like a bone-white china cup
carelessly dropped
by someone

please remember:
the moon is always whole—

It’s just sometimes
she will show you
her whole shape,
her roundness, her grace
when she is reflecting
hot light from the sun.

Other times

she won’t.

Colleen Alles is a writer living in West Michigan. Her first full-length poetry collection, After the 8-Ball, is forthcoming in March of 2022 from Cornerstone Press (The University of Wisconsin). When she isn’t reading or writing, she enjoys distance running and spending time with her family. You can find her online at, on Instagram at ColleenAlles_author, and on Twitter at @ColleenAlles.