FINALIST FOR THE PULITZER PRIZE
FINALIST FOR THE LOS ANGELES TIMES BOOK PRIZE
LONGLISTED FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD
A NEW YORKER BEST POETRY BOOK OF 2018
A VULTURE BEST POETRY BOOK OF 2018
A LIBRARY JOURNAL BEST BOOK OF 2018
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
“Through the strange labor of deciphering the text of feeld, I come to understand that Charles is transmitting an experience that I must allow to travel from her body into mine. When I do, the distance between us alters. It grows smaller and strangely charged. I’m made to realize that the very vernacular of the poems also tampers with history; it announces a continuum where Chaucer and 19th-century enslaved blacks and a 21st-century white trans woman seem quite effortlessly to share a lexicon.”
“A volume of imaginative, idiosyncratic verse that merges contemporary speech with Middle English tradition to interpret the transgender experience.”
“A book like none other: in a personalized version of Chaucer’s fourteenth-century English, Charles, a transgender woman, renders poems of unusual beauty and lyricism. . . . This is my current favorite book of 2018.”
“Jos Charles, a trans woman, turns to a sort of Chaucerian-texting hybrid in an inspired effort to find language as unstable as her experience.”
“Dazzling . . . In Jos 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, Jos 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.”
“Completely stunning in its lyrical leaps. . . . The joy in reading this out loud, in the unraveling textures of each word. . . . Vital, tender work.”
“Could we say Jos Charles's glorious feeld inextricates the battles for the past and for the future? feeld dives back into the wreckage, spins heart-stopping poems of trans life and struggle from the addictive, mouth-twisting lexica of Middle English.”
“Trans women, Jos Charles has said, are often viewed as “technological, new, invented.” They aren’t, of course, but the language around them can be. The 60 poems in Feeld demonstrate this, reflecting on the experience of a transgender woman by using metaphors largely taken from the garden and the field (or “feeld”). Such naturalistic imagery is of a piece with the Middle English poetry this work invokes, as in the opening lines of its first poem, which finds the speaker browsing clothes at a shopping mall and navigating its women’s bathroom [. . .] The anachronistic phrasing seems like Chaucer but is largely of Charles’s own design — inflected with internet and text speak, often phonetic, full of dropped letters in some places and extra ones in others. In blending old (or “aynchent”) traditions with newer ones, Charles revises a literary tradition [. . .]”
“[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.”
“A book unlike any other this year, feeld discovers novelty in the English language by looking backward. . . . [the poems] require the contemporary reader to engage in a perverse act of translation — from English to English. The result is a kind of poetic syllogism that formally enacts the absence of the transgender literary tradition. Innovative, dazzling, moving, this book is a knockout.”
“[feeld is] a totally new sound . . . an unprecedented syntax to accommodate an unprecedented experience. Every poet gropes their way towards this kind of sui generis utterance, but so few of us achieve it so absolutely.”
“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.”
“With language that knocks its reader off-balance, Jos Charles's feeld makes space, builds a stage, stretches out a hand, for the trans and queer bodies so often shunted to the side.”
"feeld is a book of translation, transition, and transformation. Charles manipulates syntax, syllable, and punctuation to open up the field of the page and to enter the larger conversation about gender, identity, and the boundary of the body. This is an incredible, important book that embodies the poetics of projective verse while creating its own language, syntax, and structure through not only the ear and the breath but also the stomach, the skin, and the non-physical essence of what it means to exist within a human body."