Allison Joseph
(July 1998)

 

Allison Joseph was born in 1967 in London, England, to parents of Caribbean descent. Her mother, Adella Dawkins, left her native Jamaica to become a nurse; her father, Everest Joseph, left Grenada to become an electrician. They met and married in March of 1958. The couple's first child, Sharon, was born in 1961. Allison followed six years after. Not long after Allison's birth, the family moved to Toronto, Canada, finally settling in the New York City borough of the Bronx in 1971.

Allison was educated at the Bronx High School of Science, graduating in 1984. Though her parents wanted her to pursue medicine in college, she wanted to pursue literary studies, and chose a college with a respected literary reputation. She left for Kenyon College in Ohio in 1984 and underwent enormous culture shock--she was one only three black students in that year's entering freshman class. Little did she realize that Kenyon's literary reputation was, for the most part, all white and all male. In spite of this, she continued to write poems--many of them fueled by her family's history as immigrants to the United States.

During Allison's sophomore year of college, Adella passed away after a long battle with lung cancer. Poems about her mother's ordeal with cancer would form the basis of Allison's first book, What Keeps Us Here. After graduating from Kenyon in 1998, Allison moved onto Indiana University at Bloomington, where she studied with such prominent poets as Maura Stanton, Yusef Komunyakaa, and David Wojahn. At Indiana, she met Jon Tribble, a poet and writer from Arkansas; the two were married in Bloomington in 1991. Under the direction of Yusef Komunyakaa, Allison wrote her M.F.A thesis, titled What Keeps Us Here. She began to send the manuscript out to first book contests, and was thrilled to learn that her manuscript had won the 1992 Women Poets Series Prize from Ampersand Press, a publisher of poetry and fiction based at Roger Williams College in Bristol, Rhode Island. The book, dedicated to Allison's late mother, also won the John C. Zacharis First Book Prize from Emerson College and Ploughshares.

Allison began her teaching career at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, teaching there from 1992 until 1994. She moved to Southern Illinois University at Carbondale in 1994, joining Rodney Jones and Lucia Perillo as part of the poetry faculty. In 1996, her second and third books of poems were accepted for publication--Soul Train, her second, was accepted by Carnegie Mellon University Press; her third, In Every Seam was accepted by the University of Pittsburgh Press. Both books were published in 1997.

In December, 1997, Everest Joseph passed away from diabetes.



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