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Trans Poet Nominated For Pulitzer Prize ‘Rearranges The Alphabet To Survive Its Ferocity Against Their Body’

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A poet who has been a finalist for the National Book Award and identifies as transgender published a volume of poetry in 2017 titled, “feeld,” with examples such as these: “did u kno not a monthe goes bye a tran i kno doesnt dye,” and “gendre is not the tran organe gendre is yes a hemorage.”

 

As Queerty noted, these changes in standard American spelling as well as the rest of the book earned the plaudits of the Pulitzer Prize committee, which nominated the work as a 2019 finalist in poetry, lauding the work of Jos Charles as “a lyrical unraveling of the circuitry of gender and speech, defiantly making space for bodies that have been historically denied their own vocabulary.” The committee raved:

“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.

In 2017, when Charles won the National Poetry Series, “feeld” was feted by poet Fady Jouda, who stated, “Jos Charles rearranges the alphabet to survive its ferocity against their body.” Jouda stated:

 

feeld is a rare find that will be felt and studied for a long while. 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 nashional’) and an anagram of the genetic code that is the body (‘lorde i am 1 / lorde i am 2 / lorde i am infinate’).

If one were to rewrite feeld into standard English, the poems, with their protean registers, would still captivate us. This book masters the interchangeable ... Jos Charles rearranges the alphabet to survive its ferocity against their body. Where language is weaponized, feeld is a whistleblower, a reclamation of art’s domain. The solidarity engendered here reaches beyond the specific injustice to its speakers. As feeld illuminates the field on which we incorporate our physical being, it forges an ambitious liberation.

 

As Queerty noted, Charles told American Poetry Review:

I believe in hope. Not as in ‘I hope things get better,’ but in a very basic sense: if things indeed occurred as they occurred, then there was a moment before it, when possibilities existed, latent, before the worst, the unspeakable. That things could be other than they are. By looking at that moment, we can not only see the possible undoing, the seams, but direct ourselves towards the directions before us now.

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