Monday, October 3, 2011

Allison Joseph & Paradoxes: An Introduction

Allison Joseph reading poetry at SIUE. Sept. 9, 2010.
By Stacey Lynn Brown

[Presented September 9, 2010]

Welcome, everyone, to the first event of ELLA, the English Language and Literature Association here at SIUE. We are very pleased to have with us tonight the fabulous poet Allison Joseph. By way of introduction, I’d like to start with the official biographical note:

Allison Joseph lives in Carbondale, Illinois, where she directs the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Southern Illinois University. With her wonderful husband Jon Tribble, she has created one of the most important literary magazines of our time, Crab Orchard Review, which she serves as poetry editor for, and she also operates the Creative Writing Opportunities list-serve, a clearinghouse of grants, prizes, contests, jobs, and publication opportunities in creative writing that currently has over 5,000 international subscribers. She’s won numerous awards, grants, and fellowships for her poetry, and her books include What Keeps Us Here (winner of the Ampersand Press Women Poets Series Prize and the John C. Zacharis Prize), Soul Train, In Every Seam, Imitation of Life, Worldly Pleasures (winner of the Word Press Poetry Prize) and Voice: Poems. Her most recent poetry collection, My Father's Kites, was published in 2010 by Steel Toe Books.

So that was the official stuff. Now on to the more personal introduction.

In preparing to introduce her tonight, I was thinking about the poetry of Allison Joseph, and I kept coming back to this one particular literary term that seemed to go a long way toward describing what it is that this woman does—and does so effectively. In literature, the word paradox is used to describe two things that appear side by side that are apparent contradictions but that somehow reveal a truth. Paradoxes. Like how, in Allison Joseph, you’ll find a poet who is both sassy and sincere. Sly and straightforward. Playful and genuine. Mischievous and earnest. Accessible yet complicated. Lyric and narrative. Formal and rhyming sometimes but all the while seemingly effortless. She’ll entertain you and before you know what hit you, you’ll also realize that you’ve been educated and edified as well. She is that rare talent in the poetry world, a writer who can delight her audience at the same time that she helps them to understand themselves, and the world in which they live, a little better. She is a gift to the world—of letters and language—and she is genuinely one of the funniest and most soulful human beings I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing. The bottom line: if you think you don’t like poetry, you just haven’t heard Allison Joseph—yet.

Ladies and gentlemen, the fabulous Allison Joseph.

Stacey Lynn Brown is a professor of creative writing at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville and the author of Cradle Song (2009), a book-length poem in sections. 

Allison Joseph Week

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