Selected by Fady Joudah as a winner of the 2017 National Poetry Series, Jos Charles’s revolutionary second collection of poetry, feeld, is a lyrical unraveling of the circuitry of gender and speech, defiantly making space for bodies that have been historically denied their own vocabulary.
“i care so much abot the whord i cant reed.” In feeld, Charles stakes her claim on the language available to speak about trans experience, reckoning with the narratives that have come before by reclaiming the language of the past. In Charles’s electrifying transliteration of English—Chaucerian in affect, but revolutionary in effect—what is old is made new again. “gendre is not the tran organe / gendre is yes a hemorage.” “did u kno not a monthe goes bye / a tran i kno doesnt dye.” The world of feeld is our own, but off-kilter, distinctly queer—making visible what was formerly and forcefully hidden: trauma, liberation, strength, and joy.
Urgent and vital, feeld composes a new narrative of what it means to live inside a marked body.
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Praise and Prizes
“Dazzling . . . In Charles’s hands, the language itself transitions, defamiliarized, and in its new spellings it opens to a poly-vocality where words contain hidden meanings.”
“Like the title of the collection, Charles treats language like an open field, a clearing in which something new can be built. Her re-spellings embody this philosophy, challenging readers to explore the open spaces, new meanings and, perhaps, find their place in them.”
“Disarming and engrossing . . . The collection undoes easy divisions between interior and exterior or science and nature. . . . Throughout, readers are subject to a careful recalibration of values, as Charles shows that a form is not important because it is static but rather because of the ways it changes, moves, and is perceived.”
“For linguistic boldness and experimentation, it’s hard to go wrong with the poems found in Jos Charles’s collection feeld. What emerges is a blend of seemingly archaic language used to explore the nature of gender in new and unpredictable ways—and an absolutely gripping reading experience.”
“[feeld] is a profound body of work that’s thought-provoking and wholly visceral. Ripe with natural imagery, surprising puns, and political statements that are jarring both in their truth and placement, feeld challenges the idea that writing about nature is only for straight, white, cis men.”
“feeld, in its mode and method, lives in the same world as Finnegans Wake—both books force us to reconsider how language transfers (and hides) meaning.”
“In Jos Charles’s irreplaceable and enticing feeld, the future of American poetry turns out to be the early medieval past. That future is slippery and overstuffed with puns, like Spenser, or like Joyce, except way more trans. Squares of parchment, scraps from market gardens, ‘hewman partes,’ privacy and the publicity of a language that has to be turned inside out and backward in order to engender, and not to misgender, what Charles wants to bring into our own time . . . ‘i am afrayde / i am riting myeself.’ Don’t be afraid. Go and listen. It should no longer be ‘tragyck / bieng undre / stood.’”
“Thrilling . . . Jos Charles’s collection feeld makes a bold linguistic move.”
“To reimagine a language of one’s age is perhaps poetry’s essential task. As Chaucerian English into the digital twenty-first century, feeld is in elite company, and is arguably unheralded in its lyric inventiveness. It’s an archeology of the present (‘wee wer so nashenal’) and an anagram of the genetic code that is the body (‘lorde i am 1 / lorde i am 2 / lorde i am infinate’). Where language is weaponized, feeld is a whistleblower, a reclamation of art’s domain. . . . A rare find.”