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The Face of the Other

An evocative and thought-provoking collection of poetry that reveals more to the reader with each reread. Clara Joseph covers a wide range of themes and ideas whilst tying them all together under the repeating image of the face, seen from many different angles and in different guises. The author seamlessly transitions between personal poems of change, transition, or personal philosophizing, to more public issues of justice and injustice, violation and destruction, all the while returning – unblinking – to the perception of the other within the world. Ultimately, this book is about what it means to meet the other person.

ISBN 97819215231359 (PB, 78pp);
140mm x 216mm
AUD $25 USD $18 NZD $27 GBP £12 EUR €14
ISBN 97819215231366 (eBook) AUD $13 USD $10 NZD $15 GBP £6 EUR €7


It is impossible to read Clara Joseph’s The Face of the Other without being touched profoundly by its beauty and pain, love and hurt, by the awful predicament of a sensitive vulnerability at once broken and yet still hopeful.  What comes through these enchanting words is a deep compassion, eyes open, bloodied, yet reaching out.
– Richard A. Cohen, Professor of Philosophy, author of Out of Control: Confrontations between Spinoza and Levinas (2016).

Clara Joseph has written a tough, emotive book in which the self’s “brokenness/ dances to the edge” of another consciousness. Fittingly, these linked poetic meditations about facing the other do not flinch in the face of hard subjects, but instead look them long in the eye. The poems meditate upon darkness—racism, sexual violence, abject poverty. Yet the book calls us not only to ethical action, but also to a celebration of everyday life in all its lyricism and connection. “Feel my cheek for the alphabet,” the speaker beckons. Reader, these pages hold intense beauty and solace. Accept their invitation.
– David Goldstein, York University

Intelligent, thoughtful, and provocative, this sensual work ranges from the sacred to the profane in language that mixes the philosophical and the vernacular. With The Face of the Other, the well published Clara Joseph makes a stunning debut as a poet.
– Ken McGoogan, author of Lady Franklin’s Revenge

Clara A. B. Joseph

Clara A.B. Joseph was born in India and lives in Calgary, Canada with her husband, Varghese Thekkevallyara. Her poetry has appeared in publications such as the Toronto Review, Mother Earth International, Prosopisia: An International Journal of Poetry & Creative Writing, Canadian Women’s Studies, the Journal of Postcolonial Writing, and Transnational Literature.

She is the author of several academic articles and book chapters. Her book, The Agent in the Margin: Nayantara Sahgal’s Gandhian Fiction (Wilfred Laurier UP, 2008), was nominated by the Writers’ Guild of Alberta for the Wilfred Eggleston Award for Non-Fiction Prize. It also won a national Aid to Scholarly Publications Program, Canada. 

Her edited books include, Global Fissures: Postcolonial Fusions (Rodopi, 2006), Theology and Literature: Rethinking Reader Responsibility (Palgrave Macmillan 2006), and special issues of the journal World Literature Written in English – “The Postcolonial and Globalisation” (2002) and “Rethinking the Postcolonial and Globalisation” (2002).   

The Face of the Other is Clara Joseph’s first book of poetry. It takes inspiration from the works of the Jewish-French master philosopher, Emmanuel Levinas, especially his ethical project of the responsibility of the self when encountering the other person. 

She has a PhD in English from York University and is an associate professor of English and an adjunct associate professor of Religious Studies at the University of Calgary.


Clara on Research Gate


Ripple concentric makes shimmer face;

shape and sheen dissolve sideways into

your brain. There it now strikes

a lodging place.

You drink in a single gulp hoping

only to still your thirst, before

the breath of another breathes:

broken dreams and bruises.

Brushes lightly the suck, the lips

mimicking a lover’s                kiss.

It throttles in a take of

an embrace of a singleness. Inside,

the brokenness

dances to the edge –

this life, this you,

that me in you.

Out there the fallen

leaf revives – a subtle stirring, unsettling

the space of plain air, after all was

so cordially for-

saken. It rises to this inane pull of

a one-way traffic,

lowering later to the weight of

water in a fist . . . wind, dizzy again at temporary doom.

It lingers before the good-bye at the teethed fence

in a letting go, the going after a staying,

never knowing the seeping in an oozing in

a love-like hollowing. Never knowing

me on that other side, the unseen

side of you observing the bobbing

leaf, its twirling so caught up in

a comic destiny, when I just walked away.

I walk the earth that earths

you in dust to dust to dust

to dus’ dus’ dus’ thus Thou

should’st mark Thine image—

Thy image mocked by a pine-

apple. And serpentine

servers sweeten the dark

mother’s face. No one is surprised

that I should turn

to rare voice of voiceless beasts

swishing in a slither of a swear-

word wounding my womb with

Thy curse upon my face

stuffed, the chew dripping

the dew dropping upon

my tongue in you

in Africa,

South America,


good old Eritrea.

All to Adam’s Peak.

Ascend Jews and Buddhists,

Christians, Zoroastrians,

Saracens, in search of one man’s foot-

prints pressed into dust

hardened into harsh rock

where only men may bow

head, still touch ground to

slurp swish

of stream;

the sip before

the last step, before

the foot in foot,

the quenching

at my face.


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