August 20, 2009

Allison Joseph wins Aquarius Press Legacy Award

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Allison Joseph, director of the master of fine arts creative writing program at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, is the inaugural recipient of the Aquarius Press Legacy Award.

As the first award recipient, Joseph receives a $500 cash award and an issue of “Reverie: Midwest African American Literature” dedicated to her work. The award is part of the press’ 10th anniversary celebration, set for Oct. 3 in Detroit, Mich.

The award spotlights “a woman writer of color from the Midwest who has yet to gain high exposure and who is also actively involved in providing opportunities for other writers.”

Joseph is an award-winning writer with six collections of poetry to her credit, and poems published in dozens of journals and magazines. She is also editor of the “Crab Orchard Review,” a nationally recognized literary journal honored by the Illinois Arts Council, and she is the founder of the Young Writers Workshop for high school students, held annually at SIUC.

The list of Joseph’s awards and accomplishments include fellowships from Bread Loaf and Sewanee Writers’ Conferences and the Illinois Arts Council; awards such as the Women Poets Series Prize, Word Press Poetry Prize, John C. Zacharis First Book Prize, and the Dancing Poetry Contest -- which saw a dance troupe perform an interpretive dance based on Joseph’s poem, “Xenophilia.” Joseph is a featured author in the book “Writing the Future of Black America: Literature of the Hip-Hop Generation,” by Daniel Grassian, and in the film documentary “Beauty Rises,” produced by WTTW-Chicago.

“This is a great honor, both for Allison and the SIUC MFA program,” Alan Vaux, dean of the College of Liberal Arts at SIUC, said.

Joseph devotes a blog site, found at, to her students, offering encouragement, praise, and avenues for writing opportunities throughout the year. True to form, when she said she plans to attend the award ceremony and anniversary celebration, she noted that SIUC alumnus Curtis L. Crisler, now an assistant professor at Indiana University-Purdue University-Fort Wayne and the author of “Pulling Scabs” (forthcoming), will attend also.

For more information about the event or to register to attend, visit

For more information about the creative writing program or the Department of English at SIUC, visit