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Lexicon by Allison Joseph

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Lexicon by Allison Joseph
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


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.

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