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.
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- Cascade Experiment: Selected Poems, Norton, 2004.
- The Nightingales of Troy: Stories of One Family’s Century, Norton, 2008.
- Feeling as a Foreign Language: The Good Strangeness of Poetry, Graywolf Press (St. Paul, MN), 1999.
- 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.
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Poems By ALICE FULTON
More poems by Alice Fulton (24 poems)
- Daynight, With Mountains Tied Inside
- Doing the Evolution Shuffle
- End Fetish: An Index Of Last Lines
- Fierce Girl Playing Hopscotch
- Industrial Lace
- My Second Marriage To My First Husband
- Nugget and Dust
- Personally Engraved
- The Body Opulent
- Traveling Light
- Trouble in Mind
- What I Like
- Where Are The Stars Pristine
- Wow Moment
- You Own It
- Yours & Mine
Audio & PodcastsPoetry Off the Shelf
“I knew all along you were mine”
Love poems from the archive for Valentine's Day.
LIFE SPAN 1952–