If Body Work begins by writing desire through a belief in the stability of the physical body, this is undone in exploring symptoms of disease, new self-knowledge and rewriting one's personal story. Because Body Work explicitly undertakes to write of a protracted and often painful period of chronic illness, these poems complicate notions of ability and disability. Connecting all six long poems are prose footnotes chronicling a natural history of human skin. This emphasis on skin, as metaphor for the body, allows for both an exploration of the desire for connection as well as a fear of vulnerability. Body Work is also interested in expanding notions of what poetry is, or could be, and is especially interested in both language play and innovative lyricism. Of this poetry, Julia Emberley, editor of English Studies in Canada says: "Emilia Nielsen plays the dermographer and writes the skin as if she is wearing its language inside out. There is a lusciousness in Nielsen's language; you can not only taste the words but also feel the desire for touch in them." In spare, arresting language, Body Work explores not only pleasure but pain, wondering how to repair a self forever changed by illness.
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