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Feeling as a Foreign Language: The Good Strangeness of Poetry Paperback – March 1, 1999

ISBN-13: 978-1555972868 ISBN-10: 1555972861

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press (March 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1555972861
  • ISBN-13: 978-1555972868
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,045,539 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"The better part of fairness is the willingness to move toward what is given rather than impose one's own aesthetic on a book. This approach--a sympathetic leaning toward the work coupled with patient rereading--is the one I've tried to realize." In this collection, poet Alice Fulton looks at her craft from a critic's perspective, exploring the "good strange or eccentric" world of postmodern poetry. In order to do this, Fulton has divided her book into five parts; the first, "Process," explores the multitudes of filters that stand between the writer/reader and the work--everything from the computer screen to that judgmental internal editor "invested with the power of entry and exclusion." "Poetics" investigates the forms postmodern poetry takes, supporting the "free and fractal" with an in-depth examination of prosody, linguistics, and even the relationships between quantum physics and poetry. In "Powers" Fulton takes a look at two misunderstood poets: the 18th-century Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, and the 19th-century Emily Dickinson--both considered "eccentric" in their own times. "Praxis" is a meditation on the author's own work, and she follows it up with the final section, "Penchants," which contains three essay-reviews on a number of modern poets. Anyone interested in the state of postmodern poetry will find much food for thought in Alice Fulton's Feeling As a Foreign Language. --Margaret Prior

From Kirkus Reviews

The author of four well-received books of poetry, and a MacArthur winner, Fulton (English/Univ. of Michigan) collects ten of her fugitive essays on poetry, all of which have been previously published in literary magazines and anthologies. Very much a poets miscellany, Fultons uneven volume tells us more about her own poetic aesthetic than it does about any of the poets she discusses. At her best when chatty, Fulton at her worst writes with all the subtlety and smoothness of a mediocre graduate student, using jargon she doesnt seem to understand and quotations that seem simply off-the-wall (this, for instance, from physicist N. David Mermin: We now know that the moon is demonstrably not there when nobody looks). The most valuable essays pertain directly to Fultons own singular style as a poet: In two essays from the 1980s, she develops a vague notion of fractal verse that accounts for her deliberate quirkiness and her sense of manageable chaos. Two essays celebrate her female fractal forebears: the 17th-century eccentric Margaret Cavendish (in an essay most notable for its bizarre personal introduction); and the alien invader, Emily Dickinson, who, as Fultons greatest influence, rightly remains a touchstone throughout the volume. A handful of omnibus reviews grumble a retro-feminism that doesnt prevent her from trashing Amy Clampitt and praising A.R. Ammonsanother fractalist, in Fultons view. In a courageous essay explicating some of her own work, and in an update on her fractalist prescriptions, Fulton further defines her aesthetic as a search for the maximalist sublime in moments of odd, postmodern rapture. Despite some confused political asides, and a foundational idea based on a rough analogy to science, this collection provides an illuminating gloss to Fultons distinctive verse. -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

More About the Author

Alice Fulton's Barely Composed (W.W. Norton) is the most recent of her nine books. She is the recipient of an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature and has also received fellowships from the MacArthur Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, Guggenheim Foundation, Ingram Merrill Foundation, Michigan Society of Fellows, and Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. Her book Felt was awarded the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry from the Library of Congress. This biennial poetry prize is given on behalf of the nation in recognition of the most distinguished book of poetry written by an American and published during the preceding two years. Felt also was selected by the Los Angeles Times as one of the Best Books of 2001 and as a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award. Her other poetry books include Cascade Experiment: Selected Poems, Sensual Math, Powers Of Congress, Palladium, and Dance Script With Electric Ballerina. An essay collection, Feeling as a Foreign Language: The Good Strangeness of Poetry, was published by Graywolf Press.

Alice Fulton's ten stories have been collected in The Nightingales of Troy. Two of these stories, "A Shadow Table" and "Queen Wintergreen," have been selected by Alice Sebold and Louise Erdrich for the Best American Short Stories. "Happy Dust," was awarded the Editor's Prize in Fiction by The Missouri Review. "The Real Eleanor Rigby," was selected for the Pushcart Prize XXIX anthology. And "Queen Wintergreen" was also anthologized in Cabbage and Bones: An Anthology of Irish Women's Writing. The Nightingales of Troy was a New & Recommended selection by The Boston Globe; a Discoveries feature by The Los Angeles Times; and a Featured Books interview in The Irish Times. For extensive excerpts from published reviews, please visit alicefulton.com.

Fulton's poetry and fiction have appeared in both editions of The Best of the Best American Poetry, The Best American Short Stories, and The Pushcart Prize Anthology, as well as Tin House, Poetry, The New Yorker, Parnassus, The Paris Review, The New Republic, The Atlantic Monthly, and many other magazines. She is currently the Ann S. Bowers Professor of English at Cornell University and has taught at The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, University of California, Berkeley, and UCLA, among other institutions.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 12, 1999
Format: Paperback
I've got to admit that I'm beginning to lose my patience with a lot of Alice Fulton's critics, many of whom seem to toss disparaging words her way with the flippant anxiousness of young children encountering and smothering something new and intimidating. "How do you know that you don't like broccoli if you won't *try* it," and how will these writers ever lend a thoughtful critical perspective if they can't stop harping on Fulton for refusing to tow a more conventional, accessible critical stance? Their generic vision ought not be Fulton's problem. It's not my mission here, however, to get into a long dialogue about the critics (Amazon wouldn't post it anyway), but to instead come to the aid of an engaging, challenging, and vital new book of essays. Fulton's volume circumscribes a theory (let's make it more approachable)--a notion--of poetics that stands to breathe new life into a discipline that is fast becoming a solipsistic basketweaving in and around the zillion MFA programs of our nation's universities. Her implicit enthusiasm for sharp words (she bitingly assigns an anonymous, well-known poet the name Halcyon Angeltongue) and for poetry's good *potential* in these pieces is so forward-thinking and refreshing that I found myself, ruffling through the pages, suddenly grandly optimistic for poetry's contemporary cause. In these pieces: Fulton lights on the "screens," both figurative and literal, that fall between reader and object, individual and elements. She comes to the generous aesthetic aid of famous and unfamous poets alike, reorganizing conventional approaches to poetic criticism with precision and concerted care.Read more ›
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 1, 1999
Format: Paperback
Not since I read Wallace Steven's 'The Necessary Angel' 25 years ago have I felt such a wide-ranging intelligence in a book of essays on poetry. Fulton uses theories of science in absolutely startling ways. Readers with any interest in rich metaphors will find much here that is positively exciting and new. Her two essays on what she's calling "fractal verse" are solid, thoughtful, and full of possibilities for where poetry can take us. So far as I know, no poet has ever before described the "poem plane" and how poets are at the threshold of "breaking" through it. To me, this is as significant as Pound's idea of "breaking" the pentameter was when it was first proposed. This book is the work of a true visionary.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 21, 1999
Format: Paperback
Let's keep it simple: this is a challenging but accessible and rewarding book. It's not surprising that some professional reviewers have carped; the book takes them (often deservedly) to task for preaching "karaoke poetics," parroting with increasing volume and decreasing originality things that were said -- and tired -- a decade ago. Fulton's chapters on her own poetry and on Dickinson are outstanding, but the whole rewards even a casual reading. Though it's prose in format, the book is still a poem -- a fractal poem -- in the way it plays with its subject matter, diverges on flights of fancy and whimsy, reveals the poet as a person rather than a cold auctorial voice, etc.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A critical reader on February 9, 2002
Format: Paperback
Alice Fulton here offers beautifully crafted essays on poets and poetry, emphasizing the power of estrangement that gives lyric much of its interest. Emily Dickinson plays an important role in this book, but above all the reader will find elegant and telling formulations about poetry's exploration of possibilities of feeling.
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