Customer Reviews: The Amputee's Guide to Sex
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on March 28, 2007
I have no idea what to write. I'll start with the truth and hope to stay there. I was walking through the store of a major book chain in Kenwood today, by happenstance my fifty-first birthday. I was headed to U.S. History which now is near the poetry section. I've never bought a book of poetry in my life until today, but the title caught my attention and I had to give it a read. I am not an amputee but I am disabled as I have substantially no use of the left side of my body. I'm very sensitive to the disabled and particularly to the asexual assumptions typically made about people with disabilities. Never before have I seen the issue treated with such sensitivity. I would like to quote briefly one line from page 9 and the poem, "Abscission,": "Your favorite post-coital pastime is naming my scars. The name for the railroad track along my back--Engine."

This book of poems had an affect on me in a powerful way. I feel less alone and in some ineffable way, comforted by them. Jillian Weise has performed a service for those of us who believe themselves too mangled to be attractive sexually to others. I recommend this book without reservation.
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Jillian Weise, The Amputee's Guide to [...] (Soft Skull, 2007)

"Your favorite post-[...] pastime

is naming my scars.

The name for the railroad track

along my back - Engine."


There can be no denying that Jillian Weise is a powerful poet. However, when fifty-eight of her poems are collected into one eighty-one-page volume, the effect of each powerful poem, taken singly, is diminished. Weise starts looking like a one-trick pony, someone who approaches poetry as fetish. Or, worse, as therapy.

"When I hopped to the bathroom,

he shouted, prettiest cripple I ever

seen and I woke everyone up yelling

Am not, am not, am not!"

("Training Wheels")

If you pick this book up, and there's certainly every reason to, a piece of advice: read one or two poems a day, maybe one or two a week. This is not a book to be read straight through. ** ½
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Jillian Weise is a remarkably gifted poet. Jillian Weise incidentally happens to wear an artificial leg. As her first published collection of poems she elects to utilize both aspects and the result is a series of well-crafted, intensely sensitive poems ostensibly about how people react to amputees at the level of our most vulnerable reaction: sexual attraction.

Weise is neither belligerent nor pitiful in her poems that deal with sexual encounters. She has the courage to embrace her physical status and use it as a barometer for examining how the public in general (and male lovers, in particular) responds to people with 'deformities', such as an artificial limb. Her sense of perspective allows her to see the comedy in the moment of 'discovery' of her 'differentness', relating how men react when during initial passion to the feel of plastic instead of flesh. But Wiese wisely presents the feelings as the one missing a limb: her mental state ranges from pain to anger to daring to pride and at each step her poems reach in a few well-chosen words a level of communication that is astonishingly fine.

Some of the poems in this fascinating collection address the communication barriers between physician and patient in dealing with frank discussions about quality of life status: they are illuminating. She also provides little guides to couples in their preparation for intimate activity, couples where one who has a missing limb and the other is 'whole'.

Most people will pick up this little book (hopefully!) because of the titillating title, AN AMPUTEE'S GUIDE TO SEX is a title that conjures all manner of responses - but mostly curiosity. And for a first volume of published poems the title may heighten the sales of the book. But once any reader opens and reads these poems, that reader will discover a powerful new poet whose manner of writing and whose communication skills are as pungent as anyone writing poetry today. Jillian Weise finds her way into our psyche and into our heart and she is a very welcome newcomer in the field of poetry! Grady Harp, June 07
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on January 16, 2014
I wish I could write with the clarity of Jillian Weise. Her poems are stark, real, in your face, and they let you into Ms. Weise's heart and mind, to feel and see what her experiences have been and are. I am so glad I purchased this book of poems. My understanding of one person who has dealt with the physical, emotional and psychological pain of amputation has been extraordinarily enhanced.
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on February 23, 2008
The first poem in this book, "The Amputee's Guide to Sex," tackles the heart of the matter with some practical humor: "To create an uninhibited environment for your partner, track their hands like game pieces on a board. For leg amputees, keep arms on upper body. For arm amputees, keep arms on lower body." (Weise 3)

Weise moves delicately and skillfully into deeper, darker moments, such as when she is fifteen and a boy finds out her secret:

I have an artificial leg. He doesn't know
that and when his hand rubs against me

and I'm not real, he stops and says,
"What the hell?" like I've offended him. (Weise 66)

In the same poem, titled "I Want You to Know This," Weise ends with the poignant words:

I want you to know this, because maybe you
wondered about people with fake legs; maybe

you wanted to hold their hand but you didn't
because you thought you might trip. (Weise 67)

Weise points out that perhaps people are afraid of the unfamiliar, and it's not the person with the fake leg who is awkward, it's other people treating them differently, afraid of tripping themselves, that ultimately leads to awkwardness.

In "The Amputee's Guide to Sex," readers will find beautiful and powerful prose, peppered with poignant moments and Weise's unique, wry sense of humor. The fishnet stockings on the cover tell it all: evocative & provocative. Definitely worth adding to your poetry book collection!
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on November 21, 2014
This is good poetry. This book touched me in so many ways.
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on December 5, 2009
Weise, Jillian. The Amputee's Guide to Sex. Brooklyn: Soft Skull Press, 2007.

The idea of being handicap is nonexistent in Jillian Weise's first book, The Amputee's Guide to Sex (2007). Weise's verse intoxicates the reader, using tightly wound images drawn from her own personal experience (an above-the-knee amputation), historical references of amputees, and the projected image of beauty in which society often perversely alters. Although bombarded by society's image of beauty, Weise chooses to confront conventional associations of beauty, stating, "I am no Venus, stitched stone // in a museum for eyes to scan / the length of, uneven, unwhole" (24). Her delicate experimentation with form uniquely mirrors her search for identity and empowerment. During the read, the reader might feel as if they are glueing back together pieces of a porcelain doll, following the stitches and fissures of a wounded soul. However, there is no need to fear handling this collection as if at anytime Weise's own psyche might shatter. Instead the reader can feel Weise taking control, steering her train off "the railroad tracks / along her back"(9) and pushing into new territory by addressing the taboos of sex and amputees. Weise is sick of under-breath and closed-door conversations, she wants the world to see a woman, just as any woman, grasping her sexual appetite and taking charge. Do not be deceived, the collection is not a listing of explicit sexual innuendoes, but rather sex is portrayed as a platform for dialogues and conversations, challenging her own fears and anxieties of identity and body image. She write, "When I asked you to turn off the lights, / you said, Will you show me your leg first?" (19). Weise not only chooses to show us her leg, but her whole body with each turn of the page. As if walking through a museum of classical sculptures, the reader stops and stares, not only at the product of beauty with delicate curves and enchanting hair, but gushes over the process in which a master's hand carved these words onto paper. By the end of the collection, Weise challenges the reader to redefine their own concepts of beauty and the world surrounding it. It is safe to say that through The Amputee's Guide to Sex, Jillian Weise stands firmly on the grounds of confessional poetry, waving a flag, screaming, love me, touch me, I promise, I will not break!
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