Request for Amendment (J. A. Fields)

Reviewed by A. C. Riffer

The first chapbook from J. A. Fields, Request for Amendment, a treatise on my cripqueer body, is more than just a beautiful, poignant indictment of the industrialized medical complex; it is also a moving account of giving names to the nameless and space to the uncategorized. The book begins with “Reminder of Obligations,” immediately asserting the author’s agency in a system that is dedicated to obscuring the rights of an individual under the system’s assumed expertise. The addressed “you” throughout the book dares the reader to confront their compliancy while inviting them into the intimate space of anger and the author’s experiences. The reminder then ends with “The second half of this letter has been redacted from this release,” leaving no doubt of the author’s power to originate.

The poems are organized under four thematic sections: Water, False Gods, Love, and Break-Up. “Water” begins with an understanding of the relationship to the body—water as mailable and adaptable, but also so close to blood. It introduces the mythologic imagery woven throughout the book and mirrors the mythos assigned to cripqueer bodies. “False Gods” is an encounter of what it means for the body to be a temple. “Love” is more than romantic and less than acceptance; love underscores the undefined and unclear community in which our identities at times place us. The closing poem of Love, “Pre-Op,” is particularly affecting, with the move from a capitalized, assured “I” to the uncapitalized “i,” addressing the fear of change and time, and of events out of our control. Finally, “Break-Up” opens with “Post Op” and the return of the capitalized “I”—the return of confidence. Regardless of what the proponents of the medical-industrial complex believe, no one will ever know the individual like the individual knows themself. And, it is an arduous task to acquire that self-assurance, as echoed in the nonlinear, chronologic order of the poems within the thematic sections.

Poetry is the art of having the exact right word in the exact right space. J. A. Fields has more than proven that mastery. As a cripqueer myself, my main dilemma was reaching the end of the chapbook. The chapbook’s progression from “Water” to “Break-Up” constructed such a narrative that a reader cannot help but be drawn in. Furthermore, the unapologetic anger and raw intimacy will hold on to the reader and demand to be re-read. J. A. Fields has reconquered their story and as such it is only appropriate that the last line in the book should be the last in this review: “zap zap motherfucker.”

Title: Request for Amendment
Author: J. A. Fields
Publisher: Gumroad
Date: 2021

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About the Reviewer

A. C. Riffer is a professional romantic and enigmatic. They don’t think there is anything else to say. Though, if one were inclined to say more, in their spare time, they are a Ph.D. student at the University of Illinois at Chicago Jane Addams College of Social Work.

Read A. C. Riffer’s review of editor Olivia Dreisinger’s double anthology, Companions: An Anthology and Earthbound: An Anthology New Writings on Disability, Animals, and Earth in this issue of Wordgathering.