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 that book are formal—those forms gave me a way to control and confront the ‘character’ of my father as presented in the book … I needed formal tools to achieve that confrontation.” The meticulous quatrains in her poem “Dinner Hour” in Confessions of a Barefaced Woman (Red Hen, 2019) offer a cooling habitat for such seething sentiments. I mention this for two reasons — first, I’m still hooked on this collection even as her new book, Lexicon, calls for attention, and also, Joseph’s restless search for and reliance on form extends through Lexicon — where the looming figure of the harsh father reappears: