Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Allison Joseph and the fourteen-line box

"For a long time I was strictly someone who wrote in free verse," said Allison Joseph in an interview with Jennifer Merrifield published in 2005. "And then my father passed away and I tried to write about the experience of losing him, and the tension, the family arguments, all of that, and I wasn’t successful, wasn’t successful to the point where the poems, I couldn’t even write a draft."

Eventually, a couple of years later, a line came to Joseph: "His credit cards were in a plastic case." From there, "I noticed that it was a ten-syllable line," and "I thought, thirteen more lines to go."

Joseph turned that one line into a sonnet and then wrote several more sonnets about her father's death. In the past, Joseph had often written in free verse, so writing a sonnet sequence was a notable shift:
I just didn’t see before how those particular shapes—-because that’s what they are if you think about them—-how they were relevant for me. But it was ultimately a freeing discovery, just learning, okay, if I can get this fourteen-line box and pack it with all my grief and all the things I think I can’t handle, I can go on to writing another fourteen-line box.
Joseph ended up publishing her sonnets from that sequence "First Birthday After Your Death: November 1998," "In the Funeral Parlour," "Before the Burial" in The Formalist. Those poems and the larger sequence of thirty-four sonnets now appear in her volume my father's kites: poems (2010), a book which I think offers important ways for thinking about the poet's expansive creativity.

Related posts:
Body Perception in A. Joseph's poem "Skinny Legs"
10 poems (online) by Allison Joseph
Allison Joseph and Creativity
Allison Joseph's Imitation of Life
Allison Joseph's Worldly Pleasures
Allison Joseph's Voice: Poems
Looking for Allison Joseph

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