The grandson of Lebanese and Syrian Catholic immigrants, poet and professor of law Lawrence Joseph was born in Detroit and received his BA and JD from the University of Michigan, and a second BA and MA from Cambridge University. His early poetry often references the discrimination and violence he witnessed as a child, including the 1967 Detroit riots and the violent attempted robbery in 1970 of his father, a grocer. Joseph’s work, informed by his practice as a lawyer, engages themes of power and truth with an unsentimental clarity.
Joseph is the author of several collections of poetry, including So Where Are We? (2017) and Codes, Precepts, Biases, and Taboos: Poems 1973–1993 (2005). His debut, Shouting at No One (1983), won the Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize. Bookslut critic Nicholas Gilewicz praised Into It (2005), which addresses the events of September 11, as “a very intimate book, one that counterintuitively and productively sidesteps confessionalism.”
As a student at the University of Michigan, Joseph won the Hopwood Award for Poetry. He has also won fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. He is the third recipient of the New York County Lawyers Association’s “Law and Literature Award,” joining prior winners Louis Auchincloss and Louis Begley. His poetry has been widely anthologized, including in The Oxford Book of American Poetry (2006). He is also the author of the prose work Lawyerland: What Lawyers Talk About When They Talk About the Law (1997).
He has taught creative writing and law at Princeton University and is Tinnelly Professor of Law at St. John’s University School of Law. He lives in downtown Manhattan.