Alice Fulton

b. 1952
Alice Fulton
Poet and writer Alice Fulton was born in 1952 and raised in Troy, New York. She earned a BA at Empire State College and an MFA from Cornell University. She is the author of numerous books of poetry, including Dance Script with Electric Ballerina (1982), which won an Associated Writing Programs Award; Palladium (1986), winner of the National Poetry Series; Powers of Congress (1990; reissued 2001); Sensual Math (1995); Felt: Poems (2001), winner of the Bobbitt Poetry Prize from the Library of Congress; and Cascade Experiment: Selected Poems (2004). She has also published a book of essays, Feeling as a Foreign Language: The Good Strangeness of Poetry (1999), and a collection of linked short stories, The Nightingales of Troy (2008). Two stories from the work were included in the Best American Short Stories series, and a third received a Pushcart Prize. Fulton’s poems have also been set to music by contemporary composers such as Anthony Cornicello, William Bolcom, and Enid Sutherland; the pieces have premiered in spaces such as the Guggenheim Museum, Carnegie Hall, and the Walker Arts Center.
 
Fulton’s poetry is known for its innovative approach to line and language, as well as the variety and depth of its content. Scholar Cristanne Miller has noted that while “strikingly flexible in their diction and manner, Fulton’s poems include an extraordinary range of topics, perspectives, and voices.” Miller went on to describe Fulton’s idiosyncratic style: “While the diction of Fulton’s poems often includes puns and slang, the topics are deeply serious. The poems are epistemological in their concerns: what is it possible to know? how does scientific knowledge affect the perceptions of common sense? how do the powers of language relate to media culture, scientific discovery, imperialism, gender, and the petty inhumanity or graciousness of everyday feelings and events? At the same time, the poems are generous, reminding us through the experimental complexity of their forms and language that we are not just ‘towers / of blood and ignorance.’” Fulton has written extensively on poetics, including in Feeling as a Foreign Language, where she elaborates on her idea of “fractal poetics,” as well as her use of the “double equal sign,” a punctuation mark she began using in Sensual Math.
 
In an interview in Memorious, Fulton elaborated on both ideas: “A fractal poem might splice a complex, dense passage to a flat or transparent line,” she told Les Kay. “The friction between the two registers of diction can create an uncanny dissonance. In this way, didactic lines can be part of a larger oblique structure. The context, the surrounding dictions and tones, changes the transparent lines, which in turn affect the denser lines… These transparent, potentially cheesy lines are embedded in a structure that includes other, more demanding sorts of language—lyrical, technical, satirical. A fractal poem sets plain language in a linguistic surround that skews—and charges—the plainness.” Of her use of the double equal sign, she said: “I also was interested in devising a punctuation mark that could have content without having a firm denotation or definition. And I thought the sign could signal syntactical deletion. That aspect was suggested by Dickinson. In one poem, I called the sign ‘dash to the max,’ ‘dash to the second power—because it’ a double equal.’ Then, too, I was influenced by A.R. Ammons’s use of the colon. Ammons didn’t devise a new punctuation mark, but his poems are riddled with colons that become more than punctuation marks. He forces you to interpret the colon.”
 
Fulton has received many honors and awards for her work, including fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Ingram Merrill Foundation, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Michigan Society of Fellows, and the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center. In 2011 she received the Literature Award from the Academy of American Arts and Letters “to honor exceptional accomplishment.” She is the Ann S. Bowers Professor of English at Cornell University.


Career

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, assistant professor, 1983-86, William Wilhartz Professor, 1986-89, associate professor, 1990-92, professor of English, 1992—. Visiting professor at Vermont College, 1987, University of California, Los Angeles, 1991, Ohio State University, 1995, and University of North Carolina, 1997. Member of American Delegation at Chinese/American Writers' Conference, 1988.

Bibliography

POETRY
  • Anchors of Light, Swamp Press (Oneonta, NY), 1979.
  • Dance Script with Electric Ballerina, University of Pennsylvania Press (Philadelphia), 1983.
  • Palladium, University of Illinois Press (Urbana), 1986.
  • Powers of Congress, David Godine (Boston), 1990; reissued by Sarabande Books (Louisville, KY), 2001.
  • Sensual Math, Norton (New York), 1995.
  • Felt: Poems, Norton, 2001.
  • Cascade Experiment: Selected Poems, Norton, 2004.
FICTION
  • The Nightingales of Troy: Stories of One Family’s Century, Norton, 2008.
OTHER
  • Feeling as a Foreign Language: The Good Strangeness of Poetry, Graywolf Press (St. Paul, MN), 1999.
Contributor to magazines, including New Yorker, Poetry, and Georgia Review. Author of short stories, song lyrics, and critical essays.

 

Further Reading

BOOKS
  • Contemporary Women Poets,St. James Press (Detroit), 1998.
  • Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 139: American Poets since World War II, Sixth Series, Gale (Detroit), 1994.
  • Keller, Lynn, and Cristanne Miller, editors, Feminist Measures: Soundings in Poetry and Theory, University of Michigan Press (Ann Arbor), 1994.
PERIODICALS
  • Contemporary Literature,winter, 1997.
  • Epoch,volume 36, no. 3, 1986-87.
  • Library Journal,December 15, 1983, p. 2334; September 1, 1986, p. 204; February 1, 1991, p. 80; April 1, 1995, p. 98; March 15, 1999, p. 78.
  • New York Times Book Review,December 10, 1995, p. 37; September 5, 1999, p. 17.
  • Poetry,November, 1984, p. 102; October, 1986, p. 43; June, 1991, p. 172; August, 1996, p. 281.
  • Poetry Society of America Newsletter,fall, 1988, pp. 4-11.
  • Publishers Weekly,October 21, 1983, p. 55; July 4, 1986, p. 65; October 5, 1990, p. 94; February 27, 1995, p. 97; February 22, 1999, p. 90.
  • Sunday Boston Herald,March 8, 1987.
  • Tri-Quarterly 98,winter, 1996-97.
  • Writer's Chronicle,May, 1998.
  • Writer's Digest,September, 1991, p. 36.
  • Yale Review, autumn, 1987, p. 133.

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LIFE SPAN 1952–

Alice Fulton

Biography

Poet and writer Alice Fulton was born in 1952 and raised in Troy, New York. She earned a BA at Empire State College and an MFA from Cornell University. She is the author of numerous books of poetry, including Dance Script with Electric Ballerina (1982), which won an Associated Writing Programs Award; Palladium (1986), winner of the National Poetry Series; Powers of Congress (1990; reissued 2001); Sensual Math (1995); Felt: Poems . . .

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