Joseph Lease’s critically acclaimed books of poetry include Testify (Coffee House Press, 2011); Broken World (Coffee House Press); and Human Rights (Talisman House, second edition forthcoming). Lease's poems “‘Broken World’ (For James Assatly)” and "Send My Roots Rain" have been selected for Postmodern American Poetry: A Norton Anthology (Second Edition). "'Broken World' (For James Assatly)" was also selected for The Best American Poetry 2002.
Marjorie Perloff wrote: “The poems in Joseph Lease’s Broken World are as cool as they are passionate, as soft-spoken as they are indignant, and as fiercely Romantic as they are formally contained. Whether writing an elegy for a friend who died of AIDS or playing complex variations on Rilke’s Duino Elegies ('If I cried out, / Who among the angelic orders would / Slap my face, who would steal my / Lunch money'), Lease has complete command of his poetic materials. His poems are spellbinding in their terse and ironic authority: Yes, the reader feels when s/he has finished, this is how it was—and how it is. An exquisite collection!”
Michael Bérubé called "Broken World" “remarkably inventive and evocative work from Joseph Lease, one of the finest poets writing today.”
Dale Smith wrote: “Lease possesses an impressive genius for compressing subversive imagery and vocal cadences within dynamic rhetorical fields . . . And it takes a poet of supreme value to manage such self-negation and control of language to bring this world out, broken or not, from the 'minute particulars' . . .”
Lease on “‘Broken World’ (For James Assatly)”: When I met James Assatly in 1991, he was completing his novel Hejira. By the spring of 1992, when he graduated from Brown with his MFA, James had grown increasingly ill and was living at home with his parents. In 1993 he died in Boston of an AIDS-related illness. In an interview, Edmund White, with whom James worked closely at Brown, called Hejira a "remarkable novel . . . As long as we live," White said, “we’ll remember that book.” I wrote this poem to honor James and his book, and to mourn all the words and worlds that were lost when we lost him. He was one of the smartest, toughest, most gifted people I knew then or have known since. He died on the morning of his thirty-first birthday -- March 25, 1993. His novel remains unpublished.
Lease was born in Chicago and attended Columbia University, Brown University, and Harvard University. He has received The Academy of American Poets Prize, The Henry Evans Fellowship in Poetry, and fellowships and grants in poetry and poetics from Columbia University, Brown University, Harvard University, and California College of the Arts. He is a member of the advisory board of the Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics.