Janine Joseph

Janine Joseph (Poetry) | Ogden, UT

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Janine Joseph is the author of Driving without a License, winner of the Kundiman Poetry Prize. Her poems and essays have appeared in Kenyon Review Online, Best New Poets, Best American Experimental Writing, Zócalo Public Square, the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day series, and elsewhere. Her libretti for the Houston Grand Opera/HGOco include What Wings They Were: The Case of Emeline, “On This Muddy Water”: Voices from the Houston Ship Channel, and From My Mother’s Mother. She holds an MFA from New York University, and a Ph.D. from the University of Houston, where she was a poetry editor for Gulf Coast. She has taught creative writing with Writers in the Schools, Community~Word Project, and the Starworks Foundation. A recipient of a Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans, an Inprint/Barthelme Fellowship in Poetry, a Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center Fellowship for Collaboration Among the Arts, a PAWA Manuel G. Flores Prize, and an Academy of American Poets prize, Janine serves as Vice President of the Writers @ Work Executive Board and is an Assistant Professor of English at Weber State University.


Driving Without a License (Alice James Books, 2016). Poetry. Kundiman Prize.

Press & Reviews

“These poems create a disquieting narrative of American immigration, one in which an undocumented young woman from the Philippines hides in plain sight among the pizza places and schoolyards of Southern California, surrounded by opportunity, risk and threat. Joseph’s sensibility is as psychological as it is political, reminding us that concealment is more than a physical act; it is also a profoundly disruptive emotional and psychological position, one that informs not just the speaker’s sense of the world, but her sense of her self. Brilliantly crafted and intimate, Driving without a License complicates the narrative of American immigration, creating from it a poetry of beauty and empathy.”
—Kevin Prufer

“Janine Joseph writes with an open and easy intimacy. The language here is at once disruptive and familiar, political and sensual, and tinged by the melancholy of loss and the discomforting radiance of redemption. A strong debut.”
—Chris Abani

“We’ve never read a book like Janine Joseph’s, Driving without a License. By “We” I mean all of us. With its ferocious formal range and deep compassion Joseph shows us the world we all live in but often choose to ignore. Here are the lives of mothers and fathers, teenagers and grandparents, all living under the threat of deportation. Here are people making a new home while holding onto the dignity and beauty of the place that they were once from. Joseph is that rare poet who makes a poem that devastates a reader while being entirely free from judgment. These are political poems because simply being alive in the United States is a political act. These are narrative poems because everyone has a story. At the heart of each poem is the lyric, that moment in which there is no separation between ourselves and the world Joseph lets bloom. This makes us citizens of these poems, which is a testament to Joseph’s staggering grace.”
—Gabrielle Calvocoressi

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