Poetry. LGBTQIA Studies. SAFE SPACE takes back its title from the term's intentional misuse within the neo-liberal/conservative imaginary, but this action can offer a reader only the slightest indication of the nervy energy pulsing within this first full-length collection by Jos Charles. Throughout the poems in SAFE SPACE, Charles defiantly articulates the terms of a radicalized vulnerability--unashamed to feel and never feeling ashamed, reclaiming agency over both poetry and politics, refusing to placate any authority attempting to control bodies with violence. The poet's agile lyricism rips apart and reimagines theoretical discourses as confessional texts and vice versa, with severe lines and staccato rhythms. As a hyperkinetic interrogation of contexts that give rise to its disruptions of, and interventions on, youth, sexual trauma, and transness, SAFE SPACE is critical reading in both senses of the term. The collection dazzles and devastates, confronting a world whose ruin is long overdue with equal parts glee and sadness, compassion and power.
Is it risk when the writing feels like the only way to stay alive? Do we say 'staying alive' or 'getting over' when wit swims and turns and leaps ahead like a dolphin friend wearing a cute beanie who doesn't care if you're keeping up? Jos Charles announces early in this collection that their 'american / corpse has been such / a disappointment.' These poems know well enough that not everyone would demur so over the dead American. Still, they tender their 'fisty filth' in the 'fiscal light' to anyone's appetite. And though their wit and intellect go off ahead, these poems abide in the persistent actual, goading us to grow the shapes we need, whispering with what I have to call a social magic, 'Even carrots do it.' --Farid Matuk
Sutures sewn and ripped and sewn again, these are the poems you and I know we have been awaiting, the poet Jos whose anvil gets hammered inside us all the way. You are going to smell everything stronger no matter what you smell, you have entered this book because you do not want the world to ever be the same. You have always wanted poems that make better questions for our living, and it is in your hands now.--CAConrad.