"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.