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About this poet

Allison Joseph received a BA from Kenyon College and an MFA from Indiana University–Bloomington.

She is the author of several poetry collections, including Confessions of a Barefaced Woman (Red Hen Press, 2018); Worldly Pleasures (Word Press, 2004); and What Keeps Us Here (Ampersand, 1992), winner of the John C. Zacharis First Book Award.

Joseph has received fellowships and awards from the Illinois Arts Council. She teaches at and directs the Southern Illinois University–Carbondale MFA Program in Creative Writing, where she also serves as the editor-in-chief and poetry editor of Crab Orchard Review. She lives in Carbondale, Illinois.


Selected Bibliography

Confessions of a Barefaced Woman (Red Hen Press, 2018)
Worldly Pleasures (Word Press, 2004)
Imitation of Life (Carnegie Mellon Unviersity Press, 2003)
In Every Seam (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1997)
Soul Train (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1997)
What Keeps Us Here (Ampersand, 1992)

 

 

Notebooks

What good are notebooks?
—Talking Heads, "Life During Wartime"

 

I crave them as if craving something carnal,
blankness of pages erotic, clean with sensual
possibilities and ready to be dampened
by my insistent ink, swirls of language

made plain on thin blue lines taut
as tightrope. I collect them like other women
collect shoes or boyfriends, fingering pristine
pages while standing hushed in aisles

of bookstores and stationery shops,
stroking plush-covered ones with a single
finger, loving floral-print ones more
than actual flowers, needing another and

another until my house is overrun
with them, and they start arranging
cocktail hours and support groups—
for the ones I have not written in

grow lonely, and the ones managing
the burden of my desperate handwriting
need someone to talk to, peers to confide in
about these dog-eared secrets and semi-scribbled

imaginings, covert half-truths, outright lies.
How they congregate around my bed,
waiting for me to pick one up, start
another hazy page of scrawls and arrows,

cross-outs and restarts, confessions
that will never be confessions until
I judge them fit for judgment. Sometimes
when fate has flattened me with its one

hard fist, only the black-and-white
composition notebooks of childhood
will do, marbled covers unchanged
from when I first learned cursive—

one letter reaching for the next
in the crazy tilting of my untested hand.
Only those wide-ruled lines will do,
those patient beginnings.


Originally published in River Styx and reprinted in The Best American Poetry 2011 (Scribner, 2011). Copyright © 2011 by Allison Joseph. Used with permission of the author.

Originally published in River Styx and reprinted in The Best American Poetry 2011 (Scribner, 2011). Copyright © 2011 by Allison Joseph. Used with permission of the author.

Allison Joseph

Allison Joseph Confessions of a Barefaced Woman (Red Hen Press), which is forthcoming in 2018. She lives in Carbondale, Illinois.

by this poet

poem

I remember sitting on his bony lap,
fake beard slumping off his face,
his breath reeking sweetly of alcohol,
a scent I didn't yet know at five.
And I didn't know that Santa
was supposed to be fat, white, merry—
not shaky and thin like this
department store Santa who listened

poem

were crude assemblages of paper sacks and twine,
amalgams of pilfered string and whittled sticks,
twigs pulled straight from his garden, dry patch

of stony land before our house only he
could tend into beauty, thorny roses goaded
into color. How did he make those makeshift

diamonds

poem

Oh how I wanted to be a dancer
those Saturday mornings in the
living room, neglecting chores

to gape at the whirling people
on our television: the shapely
and self-knowing brownskinned

women who dared stare straight
at the camera, the men strong,
athletically gifted as they