Called “Dickinson’s postmodern heir” by Publisher’s Weekly, Alice Fulton‘s lively, distinctive style and buoyant faith are most evident in her numerous books of poems, including Sensual Math (1995); Powers of Congress (1990); Palladium, winner of the 1985 National Poetry Series and the 1987 Society of Midland Authors Award; and Dance Script with Electric Ballerina (1982; reissue 1996), winner of the Associated Writing Programs Award.
Her work, as American Literature put it, “stretches the linguistic, tonal, vocal, and emotional range of contemporary lyric”. Through her poems. Fulton explores the interplay of divine mystery and scientific fact without sacrificing emotional richness.
Characterized by the New Yorker as “electrifying” and “deeply moving”, her poems have been includedin five editions of the Best American Poetry Series, and has appeared in Poetry, Parnassus, The New Yorker, the Paris Review, and many other magazines. She has received numerous awards for her poetry, including the Pushcart Prize and the Emily Dickinson and Consuelo Ford Awards from the Poetry Society of America.
Fulton has received fellowships from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Ingram Merrill Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Michigan Society of Fellows an the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center. She is currently Professor of English at The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
Poetry Center Reading:
Fierce Girl Playing Hopscotch
You sway like a crane to the tunes of tossed stones.
I am what you made to live in
from what you had: hair matted as kelp, bad schools.
Oh, you will never know me. I wave and you go
on playing in the clouds
boys clap from erasers. I am the pebble
you tossed on the chalked space and war-
danced toward, on-leg two-leg, arms treading air.
In this, your future, waves rechristen the sea
after its tiny jeweled lives
that hiss “Us Us” to the shore all day.
Where’s the kid called Kateydid? the moonfaced
Kewpiedoll? The excitable pouting
Zookie? The somber O-Be-Joyful?
Lost girl, playing hopscotch, I will do what you could.
Name of father, son, ghost. Cross my heart and hope.
While the sea’s jewels build shells and shells
change to chalk and chalk to loam and gold
wheat grows where oceans teetered.
From THE PALLADIUM (The University of Illinois Press, 1986)
The city had such pretty clotheslines.
Women aired their intimate apparel
in the emery haze:
membranes of lingerie-
pearl, ruby, copper slips-
their somehow intestinal quivering in the wind.
And Freihofer’s spread the chaste, apron scent
of baking, a sensual net
over a few yards of North Troy.
The city had Niagara
Mohawk bearing down with power and light
and members of the Local
shifting on the line.
They worked on fabrics made from wood and acid,
synthetics that won’t vent.
They pieced the tropics into housecoats
when big prints were the rage.
Dacron gardens twisted on the line
over lots of Queen Anne’s lace.
Sackdresses dyed the sun
as sun passed through, making a brash stained glass
against the leading of the tenements,
the warehouse holding medical supplies.
I waited for my bus by that window of trusses
in Caucasian beige, trying to forget
the pathological inside.
I was thinking of being alive.
I was waiting to open
the amber envelopes of mail at home.
Just as food service workers, counter women,
maybe my Aunt Fran, waited to undo
their perms from the delicate insect meshes
required by The Board of Health.
Aunt Alice wasn’t on this route.
She made brushes and plastics at Tek Hughes-
mild crates of orange
the cartons could drip through.
Once we boarded, the girls from Behr-Manning
put their veins up
and sawed their nails to dust
on files from the plant.
All day, they made abrasives. Garnet paper.
Yes, and rags covered with crushed gems called
It was dusk-when aunts and mothers formed
their larval curls
and wrapped their heads in thick brown webs.
It was yesterday-twenty years after
my father’s death,
I found something he had kept.
A packet of lightning-
cut sanding discs, still sealed.
I guess he meant to open the finish,
strip the paint stalled on some grain
and groom the primal gold.
The discs are the rough size
of those cookies the franchises call Homestyle
and label Best Before.
The old cellophane was tough.
But I ripped until I touched
their harsh done crust.
From SENSUAL MATH (W.W. Norton & Company, 1995)
The Priming is a Negligee
between the oils and canvas. Stroke the white
sheath well into the weave. The canvas
needs more veil. The painting
should float on skins of lead
white coating-or its oils will wither
the linen they touch, its colors gnaw
at cloth until the image hangs on air.
The canvas needs more veil.
The body takes its own shade
with it everywhere. There are true gessoes
flesh will accept: blocks and screens
to keep the sun just out of reach. Creams
white as styrofoam but less
perpetual, vanishing like varnish
once they’re crammed between the cells.
So skin is sheltered
by transparencies, iced
with positive shadows. Sunshade.
The nihilist is light.
Printers know it’s the leading
between lines that lets them be
swaddled in the rag of stanzas.
How close the letters huddle
without rubbing. For immersion see
“passion between.” See
opposite of serene. For synonym and homonym
see “rapt” and “wrapped.”
There is a gown-that breathes-
and a gown-that heats. One to hold,
One to release. Watch
the lead white camisole go up
in arms and hair and skin.
That on flings it like a shiny jelly
to the floor. With beautiful frugality, go
the solid cotton briefs.
The lovers get so excited
to think-nothing comes between them.
There is nothing between them.
That’s how they can consume each other,
sand each other sore.
The oils are suspended
on a leading. The lovers
touch in linen walls.
From SENSUAL MATH (W.W. Norton & Company, 1995)