Allison Joseph

Allison Joseph lives in Carbondale, Illinois, where she is a professor of English and director of the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Southern Illinois University. She serves as poetry editor of Crab Orchard Review. Her books include My Father’s Kites (Steel Toe Books), Trace Particles (Backbone Press), Little Epiphanies (NightBallet Press), Mercurial (Mayapple Press), Mortal Rewards (White Violet Press), Multitudes (Word Poetry), The Purpose of Hands (Glass Lyre Press), Double Identity (Singing Bone Press), Corporal Muse (Sibling Rivalry Press), and What Once You Loved (Barefoot Muse Press). Her most recent full-length collection, Confessions of a Barefaced Woman, was published by Red Hen Press in June 2018.

All Books


Allison Joseph

Publication Date: April 27, 2021

$16.95 Tradepaper

ISBN: 9781597097178


Lexicon is a worthy successor to Allison Joseph’s award-winning breakthrough, Confessions of a Barefaced Woman. This time around, this self-professed “barefaced woman” is setting her sighs/sights on language and what it does for and with and to her. Joseph loves language, making it her slippery passion in poems about childhood griefs and fashion faux pas, movie musicals and empty airports, “rules” for writing and rules for reading. Though Joseph loves language, it doesn’t always love her back—but in her wise, readable, and imaginative way, she persists while documenting the minefields of racism and sexism. Joseph finds joy in the most unlikely of places, and in Lexicon, her adoration for the written word lets us see those places in sharp and evocative relief. All hail this bounty, this Lexicon!


Lexicon is an investigation of form rendered in a uniquely sensual, sensory exploration of language whose depth and breadth encompass a multitude of poetic, lyric, and linguistic traditions that reflect the dialects, cultures, and communities in which Allison Joseph is fluent. The iambic beat of the English language is at the heart of her verse whose fluidity and sonic play deliver a cornucopia of lines grounded in a meditation on embodiment, class, race, gender, sexuality, time, and place. Food metaphors abound in a sexy, sense-laden feast of images served with an exuberant yet intellectually meticulous command of forms such as villanelles and sestinas whose recursiveness mirrors the poet’s relationship with time and memory. In Joseph’s capable hands, the oft-maligned and often dusty ars poetica sings with a fresh music and emotional candor that marries formal and narrative lyrical poetry. In this remarkable collection, the poet is at the height of her powers.”—Wendy Chin-Tanner, author of Anyone Will Tell You

“Allison Joseph’s Lexicon is poetic celebration, elegy, and most of all, song. Exploiting tensions between content and form, body and body image, women and misogyny, race and stereotype, these are poems that thrum and churn within their own well-wrought urns—’bodies pushing words beyond the real’—frequently calling out the histories and hypocrisies of their own formal embodiments. The poems in Lexicon hum, croon, and belt out their refrains with heartbreaking candor, shimmer, and sashay—revealing a poet so deft with form that she can easily code-shift between violence and ecstasy, side-eye and wit, lyric torch song and funk. Allison Joseph is a poet whose skilled craft and remarkable voice combine to make a remarkable music, and this book is both powerhouse and pleasure.”—Lee Ann Roripaugh, author of tsunami vs. the fukushima 50

Confessions of a Barefaced Woman

Allison Joseph

Publication Date: June 12, 2018

$17.95 Tradepaper

ISBN: 978-1-59709-609-6


The poems in Allison Joseph’s latest collection are smart, shameless, and empowered confessions of the best kind. In semi-autobiographical verse highlighting in turns light-hearted and harsh realities of modern black womanhood, these poems take the reader down “A History of African-American Hair,” visit with both Grace Jones and the Venus de Milo, send Janis Joplin to cheerleading camp, bemoan a treacherous first pair of high heels, and discuss “vagina business.” Funny, but never flippant, and always forthcoming about the author’s own flaws and foibles, Confessions of a Barefaced Woman is sure to keep readers entranced, entertained, and enlightened.


WINNER – 2019 Independent Press Award in Poetry
FINALIST – 2019 NAACP Image Award in Poetry
FINALIST – 2019 Paterson Poetry Prize
FINALIST – Eric Hoffer Book Awards, DaVinci Eye and the Montaigne Medal
FINALIST – Milt Kessler Poetry Book Award


Confessions of a Barefaced Woman is the perfect title for Allison Joseph’s latest and finest book. She is a force to be reckoned with in these direct, powerful poems. We know where she stands and why, and she welcomes us on the journey through these pages with humor, humility, and grace. She is a master of poetic form and technique, which she artfully integrates into her frank, honest, confiding voice. Whether the subject is African-American hair, the purchase of a first bra, junk food, or liars, or people such as Rick James, Dorothy Parker, Grace Jones, or that Other Allison, she tackles them all here with refreshing clarity and candor. If she has any more confessions, I want to hear them.”—Jim Daniels, author of Birth Marks and Show and Tell

“Allison Joseph’s Confessions of a Barefaced Woman is memoirist poetry, a journey of complicated girlhood to nuanced womanhood. The speaker grows from being a ‘Pesky Little Sister’ to a woman who is in a ‘marriage / saved by frozen foods’; from a child learning penmanship to a woman writing poems. Confessions is full of laughter, generosity, intellect, and deep questions about the trap of female beauty, particularly African-American beauty. Allison Joseph knows there is strength in vulnerability—her barefaced poems glow with ‘no second skin for [her] to wipe away.’”
—Denise Duhamel, author of Blowout


Book Riot features Phuong T. Vuong’s A PLUCKED ZITHER in their list of ‘New & Upcoming Nonfiction & Poetry by AAPI Authors to Read & Preorder’!

A PLUCKED ZITHER BY PHUONG T. VUONG (JUNE 6TH) This poetry collection explores migration, memory, language, and the experience of being a refugee. The poems travel through time and space, between Vietnam and the U.S., as the speaker looks for belonging and connection. Many of the poems directly address the ways that war, imperialism, and forced […]

Allison Joseph speaks on Lexicon and new book at Bradley University

Allison Joseph, a poet of Caribbean descent, visited Bradley on Nov. 3 in the Wyckoff Room of the Cullom-Davis Library to present a reading of her own poems and her husbands to students.  In her lifetime, she has written over 15 poetry pieces and books, the latest of which is titled ‘Confessions of a Barefaced […]

Allison Joseph’s LEXICON Wins Poetry by the Sea Best Book of the Year Award!

The judge’s remarks: Ned Balbo had this to say about his choice: I’m delighted to select Allison Joseph’s Lexicon as winner of Poetry by the Sea’s Best Book of 2021 award. Joseph’s Lexicon excels in its vision, intelligence, and emotional range, as well as in its terrific command of craft. Her most playful poems are […]

Jan Beatty, AMERICAN BASTARD author, interviewed on Skylight Books Podcast!

American Bastard is a lyrical inquiry into the experience of being a bastard in America. This memoir travels across literal continents–and continents of desire as Jan Beatty finds her birthfather, a Canadian hockey player who’s won three Stanley Cups–and her birthmother, a working-class woman from Pittsburgh. This is not the whitewashed story, but the real […]

Jan Beatty, author of AMERICAN BASTARD, guest writes for LitHub

I was born in Roselia Asylum and Maternity Hospital in the Hill District of Pittsburgh. It was a “home for unwed mothers” where pregnant girls could stay until they had their babies, and then they would leave the babies there. I spent the first year of my life in the Roselia orphanage before I was […]

Jan Beatty interviewed by John Busbee on The Culture Buzz

American Bastard is a powerful memoir by Jan Beatty, sure to draw the reader into better understanding another’s journey. Jan provides a visceral walk in her shows, through which we all may recognize bits and pieces universal to us all, while also gaining a greater sense of empathy for the rough path others have had […]

LEXICON author Allison Joseph interviewed for Little Infinite!

Allison Joseph is the author of many poetry collections, editor, professor of English and director of the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Southern Illinois University; Lexicon is a refreshingly genuine demonstration of passion in poetic form. Author of the award-winning, Confessions of a Barefaced Woman, Allison Joseph, is back with her newest book, Lexicon. […]

Jan Beatty interviewed on The Downtown Writers Jam podcast!

Author Jan Beatty stopped by the Bunker to talk about her award-winning memoir, American Bastard. If you follow the show, you know that title alone was going to Brad interested. But, the two writers took a really deep dive into some difficult subjects: adoption, addiction, recovery, trauma, therapy, and the brokenness of some families. Just the little things that […]

Check out Jan Beatty’s interview with 90.5 WESA!

Who, a reader might ask, is Patrice Staiger, whose haunting epigram “This story begins at an impasse, since I am writing to you as someone who was never born?” prefaces Jan Beatty’s new memoir, “American Bastard”? “Staiger” is none other than a stand-in for Beatty herself, employing her birth name to set the tone for […]

Allison Joseph and William Archila featured on LA Times Festival of Books Poetry Stage!

Please enjoy these readings on our first ever virtual poetry “stage” produced in partnership with Beyond Baroque Literary/Arts Center. Be sure to scroll through the entire page, as there are several readings from so many talented poets available to view including Yusef Komunyakaa, Pulitzer Prize and the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award-Winner, local L.A. poets Sesshu Foster, William Archila and Yesika […]


Alyssa Graybeal’s FLOPPY reviewed in Library Journal!

In this compelling memoir, debut author and cartoonist Graybeal writes about her life living with chronic pain and her childhood diagnosis of the rare genetic connective tissue disorder called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. Subscribe to Library Journal to access the full review!

AMERICAN BASTARD by Jan Beatty reviewed in International Swans!

We are taught that a story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. We are taught that a girl who ventures on a quest to find her lost parents will become whole when she finds them; we are taught that this girl will find happiness. But the truth is, life doesn’t usually happen in […]

Jan Beatty’s new memoir AMERICAN BASTARD reviewed on Pittsburgh City Paper!

The cover photo shows a young girl smiling as she points a toy gun at the camera. At first glance, the book’s title seems to be American Badass. But the correct name of Jan Beatty’s memoir is American Bastard. Both titles ring true. Beatty, a poet and writer from Regent Square who was adopted just after birth, calls […]

AMERICAN BASTARD by Jan Beatty reviewed in Pittsburgh Post-Gazette!

“As an adoptee, one of the toughest things is the idea of shifting identities,” writes Jan Beatty in “American Bastard: A Memoir.”” “No one is who they say they are: The adopted parents are masquerading as the ‘real’ parents, the ‘real parents’ don’t seem to exist, the adoptee’s story is invisible, and the adoptee herself […]

AMERICAN BASTARD by Jan Beatty reviewed in On the Seawall!

Any baby, let alone a bastard baby, is born a mystery, and babies don’t come with directions. But Jan Beatty’s iconoclastic memoir American Bastard does come with directions. Here is how she tells us to read her story: “Try staying with the foreign idea that a baby is born, then sold to another person. Stay […]

Allison Joseph’s LEXICON reviewed in ON THE SEAWALL!

In a 2019 interview at Lunch Ticket, Allison Joseph said the following about her emotionally abusive father: “Only after his death could I speak my own individual truths about him. In a sense, I had to turn him into a character, a figure I could control through language. That’s why so many of the poems in […]