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



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