Selected by Fady Joudah as a winner of the 2017 National Poetry Series, Jos Charles's second collection of poetry is a lyrical unraveling of the circuitry of gender and speech, making space for bodies that have been historically denied their own vocabulary.
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. Most everything in feeld is a pun—or two, maybe more, at once. A “feeld” is a place where something might grow (or lie fallow or rot), or the agrammatic past tense form of to feel ... Transness, for Charles, is something folded, involute, and invaginated. This in part explains why the most promising language to articulate—and disarticulate—transness is not that of the future but that of the past: it is something to be folded back on itself. The very structure of transness is one of folding and refolding such that “pitt from plum,” “a whord from its thynge,” or the horse knowing “the feeld from its bit” is always a series of labyrinthine returns, of chiasmatic touching between histories and potentials, without the simple linearity and cleanliness of a straight line.
While all writers are concerned with language, feeld queers language in such a way that it raises questions about whether what we perceive someone to be is as important as what we call them—and, therefore, how we define their existence. feeld asks us to consider whether existence is in fact defined by naming—that is, by language.
Meaning is relentlessly multiple, and piecing together the resonances of Charles’s artificial orthography leaves the reader both fascinated by and unmoored in the fields of discourse her speakers inhabit ... Inquiry into “æffekts” (nice to see the revival of the Old English grapheme ash, “æ”) allows moments of beauty and lyricism to erupt ... Language is used to police gendered identity, often to oppress—to insist a person is this but not that—but it does so on the shakiest possible grounds, and Charles’s dive into the lexicon destabilizes any false sense of assurance we might have of linguistic fixity in the present.