Over the course of MLK weekend, Allison Joseph, an award winning-poet, professor and editor, ran a poetry workshop for GC students. In this workshop, Joseph covered everything from the purpose of poetry and rhythm rhyme to how repetition leads to buried truths. 

Joseph was raised in Toronto and the Bronx. Her parents are of Caribbean origin, and she was born in London, England. Allison earned a B.A. from Kenyon College and an MFA from Indiana University. Next fall, Joseph will move into her 30th year of teaching English at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Joseph has released eight full-length poetry collections, six chapbook collections and three anthology publications. Since 2001, Joseph has been a co-founder and editor-in-chief of the Crab Orchard Review which she started in 1995 with her late husband, the poet Jon Tribble. She is also the founder and publisher of the No Chair Press as well as founder and director of the Young Writers Workshop which Joseph started in 1999 at SIUC.

Joseph offered insight into her motivation for leading these kinds of workshops.

“It really is gratifying to see people make realizations about what they can do with language,” Joseph said. 

In many ways, Joseph feels as though she was meant to be a poet. She is someone who enjoys language and is knowledgeable about it. 

“I’m glad that I made a go of it,” Joseph said. 

More specifically, the workshop contained concepts like “what is poetry and why do we still write it,” descriptions of Arts Poetica and odes, the importance of rhythm as a life force in poetry and rhyme as a creative commitment. In addition, the workshop included work with sonnets, repetition and refrains. With a focus on repetition, the class wrote villanelles as a passage of being a truth teller using repeated lines.

Joseph’s poetry workshop inspired younger writers at GC to experiment with poetry. Shayne Wassell, a senior graphic design major, attended the workshop. 

“I liked it. I got to learn things that I didn’t know before, especially with Odes. I didn’t know that there was a poetic form,” Wassell said. “I got comfortable writing sonnets. I was not comfortable writing them before.”

Eliza Alemán, a sophomore sustainability major, also attended the poetry workshop. “It was great,” she said. “It was informative and I liked the collaborative aspect of it.”

“I’m definitely an amateur poet, so learning all of the poetic forms was helpful. I’m also kind of now keeping in mind that it’s just helpful to have a formula.”

Joseph’s advice for Midwesterners: “There are so many opportunities for you to write your story and for it to be unique, it’s not like this is Hollywood or something.”