Feeling as a Foreign Language

Alice Fulton, Author Graywolf Press $15 (320p) ISBN 978-1-55597-286-8
After four books of inventively friendly poems, Fulton (Sensual Math) collects 15 years of eclectic essays in this first gathering of her prose. Fulton (who teaches at the University of Michigan, and has won a MacArthur ""genius"" grant) defends her practice with wit and verve: if Frost called writing free verse playing tennis without a net, ' Fulton's ""Net-Nabbing Freeform Tennis Club would waste no time inventing another restriction. They might move the game indoors, use the walls... and call their sport racquetball.'"" Fulton suggests that current poets' unmetered forms resemble fractals in their hidden, recursive patterns; the analogy will convince some readers, and interest more. The two essays on ""fractal poetics"" share space with eight others, among them extended appreciations of Emily Dickinson and the 17th-century poet Margaret Cavendish, several omnibus book reviews, and an exegesis of three of Fulton's own poems. The same political cares that deepen Fulton's commitment to Dickinson render her book reviews desperately predictable: most alternate generic praise (""In X's best work one recognizes the workings of a humane and generous intelligence"") with flat scorecards on poets' treatment of women. Fulton writes for readers and writers of current poetry, with a sometimes-hazy sense of the past (the essay on Cavendish suffers from lack of context) and wants her readers to share her beliefs--in the worth of disjunction, in the value of physics for poets, and in the need to work for women's equality. In several of these essays, they'll find the exemplary verve to do so. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 03/01/1999
Release date: 03/01/1999
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