CHRIS RICE COOPER is a newspaper writer, feature stories writer, poet, fiction writer, photographer, and painter. She maintains a blog at https://chrisricecooper.blogspot.com. She has a Bachelor's in Criminal Justice and completed all of her poetry and fiction workshops required for her Master’s in Creative Writing with a focus on poetry. She, her husband Wayne, sons Nicholas and Caleb, cats Nation and Alaska reside in the St. Louis area.
Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Feature on Dr. Allison Joseph and her new chapbook of poetry TRACE PARTICLES
In March of 2014 Dr. Allison Joseph
received a welcoming phone call from RHINO editor Ralph Hamilton.
Hamilton informed her via the phone
that she was the recipient of the Paladin Award from the literary journal Rhino
Poetry (http://rhinopoetry.org), awarded to Allison Joseph
for being a teacher, editor, poet, innovator, mentor and for her extraordinary
long-term contribution to poetry in Illinois.
On April 25, 2014 Dr. Allison Joseph
attended a ceremony where she was awarded the Paladin Award from the literary
journal Rhino Poetry.
Joseph prefers to write the normal lengthy poetry collections, but she is also a fan
I like chapbooks a lot.I loved Tim
Seible’s chapbook Kerosene.”
Joseph has written six poetry
collections and two chapbooks (including Trace Particles).
When asked if there was a difference between
writing poems from a chapbook collection than a normal length poetry
collection, Joseph responded:“Nothing really--I wrote the poems as they
came, so there wasn't really anything about their composition I'd not
Joseph wrote Trace Particles the same
way she writes all of her poems – in total silence and with a pen in longhand on
legal pads or notebooks, and with no limit to environment or place.
write anywhere I happen to have an idea strike me.”
One would think a chapbook would lack the compelling
power and artistic poetic art form of the longer, more typical length book of
poetry, but Joseph feels otherwise.
chapbook allows you to send a concentrated dose of poems, so it’s good for a
lot of the poems of social concern I was working with at the time.”
Trace Particles consists of poems
giving voices to black women slaves, women who have been abused or raped, girls
who have been molested, or denied their basic human right because of their tiny
vaginas, or the color of their skin.
In the continent of Asia alone, over 4000 cases
of rape, half of them girls under the age of 16, have been reported to the
authorities in the past year.This does
not include the unreported rapes; nor does it include the rape atrocities
occurring throughout Africa, Ireland, the Middle East, and even the United
Trace Particles is more than a chapbook
of poetry but a powerful tool that every women and girl should have.It’s like a pill one could take – but with no
Joseph arranged the poems in Trace
Particles according to darkness of theme:the humorous poems are first and the darker
poems are at the end.
The most emotional poem for Joseph to
write was “31 Shirts” because of its difficult topic of domestic violence,
which is evident in most of the poems in this small collection.Joseph was inspired to write “31 Shirts” when
she observed a clotheslines project exhibit. (http://www.clotheslineproject.org)
this reviewer now has a voice and a comrade in Joseph, who admits to having the
urge of violence toward the perpetrator who targeted women at Southern Illinois
University of Carbondale; but at the same time, she has the maturity and
compassion to abstain from that violence.
I would love to strangle
with his clothesline,
make him see colors
of a different kind,
but that sort of anger
only makes me bitter,
does no bit of harm
to an old man in a
jail cell too eager to plead
Excerpt from “31 Shirts” from Trace
granted by Allison Joseph.
“31 Shirts” Joseph recognizes all the women and girl victims based on the color
of their t-shirts, worn to spread awareness and to prevent the violence from
signifying a woman killed for loving another
woman.Yellow or beige mean rape, though
if a woman should
live, her shirt can be red,
or pink, perhaps
orange.Blue or green
for surviving incest,
black if you’re attacked for
In “31 Shirts” Joseph makes an
observation that huge populations of Southern Illinois University of Carbondale
students wear the t-shirts; but then she makes a plea both men and women:
I wonder if they stop
at all to think
what their own shirts might say
what these colors mean,
The last line of “31 Shirts” leaves no
excuse for anyone not to be concerned about violence – not only violence toward
women, but toward anyone, and it also make the political statements that there
should be more strict laws about guns.
hands can do around a
leg or throat or gun.
The poem that Joseph did the most
research on was “Snow White”, in which Joseph depicts a would be victim as Snow
White, and Walt Disney as a possible future perpetrator when Walt Disney
insisted the Snow White caricature be that of a fourteen year old girl.
Thank goodness his
animators talked sense to
Him or their first
full length animated feature
Would have been
nothing more than an advert
For pedophilia, that
eager Prince swooning for a girl
Less than half his
“Snow White” at first glance escapes
being a victim by simply appearing older in the film.But then, later in the poem, Joseph delves
deeper into who is responsible for the victimization towards women; and what
victim entails.In order to be a victim,
does a woman/girl have to be sexually violated?Or could a woman/girl be a victim by false advertisement; not being
given their due share of the just dollar?
Joseph credits Snow White with opening
the doors to other Walt Disney characters but no “snow white” is given the hard
earned penny; only given to white men.
artists drew you
and those dopey
dwarfs by hand, frame by frame,
two million images to
save Walt’s studio
from bankruptcy, but
you never got a cent,
your dulcet singing
by some Hollywood
singing teacher’s daughter.
“Snow White” has political undertones
of the media’s misrepresentation of women, and due to those misrepresentations
women such as “Snow White” are coerced into being an image that is impossible to
maintain or hold, further victimizing women and especially young girls.
In all, it’s an
acceptable life, and if you
Have to down a few
pills before bedtime,
Who’s to know?You’re eternally delightful, heroine
To millions of pink-clothed
Ordinary little girls,
their rotund mothers
Who were once little
girls took all of them
Paying more for your
likeness than they
Would for their own,
the Magic Kingdom
They seek nowhere in
What all the picture
Joseph in her poem “Aunt Jemina’s
Revenge” gives poetic justice a whole new meaning with humor, justification,
and the sweetest revenge ever, starting with changing Aunt Jemima’s name to
“Aunt Jemina’s Revenge”.
In the poem, Joseph responds to an article
byline of the Quaker Oats Company having to recall Aunt Jemima’s pancake mix
due to possible salmonella contamination.Here the victim pool of possible salmonella contamination is no longer
women and girls, but men and women, and more than likely white men and women.
Has you right where
she wants you: feverish
And glassy-eyes, head
in the toilet, pleading
For redemption from
your own evil.
Soon, the perpetrator is not the slaveholder
or the conservative white but individuals who box in what it means to be black,
the media being one.The perpetrator
becomes the advertisers and those who fall for the advertisement – and we are
not talking about syrup nor are we necessarily talking about contamination but the
misconceptions of what it means to be black.
Joseph adds biographical unknown
elements to the poem “Aunt Jemina’s Revenge” by revealing the face for the Aunt
Jemima was actually a white woman.
A white woman with an
sooty-faced in burnt cork.
Joseph further offers an important
typically unknown biographical fact about the real Aunt Jemina.
Late, you learned the
first black Aunt
Jemina came straight
off a Kentucky
Plantation, hired to
bring the World’s Fair
1893’s most startling
hotcakes in a box to a grateful, hungry
The last stanza is perhaps the most humorous
that bleeds sweet revenge for all the Aunt Jemina’s everywhere – all the
housewives black and white and every other color that are never paid and never thanked
for their labors in the kitchen.
The grin of a woman
a lifetime making
without you ever once
offering to make hers.
There is a bit of pop culture in these poems –
Aunt Jemima, Snow White, soap star actress Shell Kepler, General Hospital’s
Luke and Laura.
There is a persona poem of Tennessee Williams
walking in Times Square in 1984; and, of course, the powerhouse of a poem Trace
Particles, also the titled of the chapbook, about the dangers of contaminated
water and its effects.
One could spend hours discussing
Joseph’s individual poems, their artistic poetic power, their compelling ability,
and the versatile meanings.The poems
are magic – it is understood what the poet’s meaning is; and yet, the reader is
able to read these poems and see clearly his or her on individual meaning at
the same time.The poems themselves
become the living embodiment of what it means to be Muse and Poet and Poem. And,
also, what it means to be victim and perpetrator.
Photo Description and
Copyright granted by Allison Joseph.
cover of RHINO 2014 issue
granted by Allison Joseph.
Joseph holding the 2014 Paladin Award from Rhino in her right hand at the
Brothers K Rhino Reads! Open Mic and Featured Readers night on April 25, 2014.
granted by Allison Joseph
Press web logo
5P (two photos)
Seibles Copyright granted by Tim Seibles
cover of Kerosene
of Allison Joseph’s six book collections and one chapbook collection.
Copyright granted by Allison Joseph.
cover of the chapbook Voice: Poems Photo 8N Jacket cover of Trace Particles
Joseph reading from Trace Particles
Press .com rape prevention logo
logo for the clothesline project website.
Killer Timothy Krajcir.Department of
Illinois Corrections.Pubic Domain.
for the clothesline project
Trailor of Walt Disney introducing the dwarfs from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
Movie Poster of Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs by Walt Disney.
Caselotti, the voice of Snow White on October 10, 1932.
Music Cover of Jemima’s Wedding-Day Cake Walk
by Martin Saxx
famous Welsh woman and heroine Jemima Nicholas also known as Jemima Fawr.
for Nicholas/Fawr at the St. Mary’s Church Fishguard
Green as Aunt Jemima.Nancy Green was
born into slavery in 1834 in Montgomery County, Kentucky.She died in a car accident in 1923.
Luke Spencer (Anthony Gearey) and Larua Webbar (Genie Francis) on their wedding
day November 17, 1981.
Use Under The United States Copyright Law.
Williams walking to the funeral services of Dylan Thomas in 1953.
to Walter Labertin – New York World Telegram and Sun Staff Photographer.