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Felt was selected by the Los Angeles Times as one of the Best Books of 2001.
Felt was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award in Poetry.
Felt was also chosen as "New and Notable" by the New York Times.
Excerpts from Reviews of Felt
W.W. Norton, 2001
Awarded the 2002 Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry from the Library of Congress
“Alice Fulton has for years been one of the nation's most eloquently cerebral poets, and in Felt she adds still another dimension to her enviably erudite poetics: a richness of sense and emotion that in 2001 heralded her strongest and most accessible single collection to date. Fulton's command of language, theory, rhetorical structure, and technique is so sure one little doubts one is in the presence of a Master. ”
The Huffington Post, January 2012
In Alice Fulton's poetry, those charged instances when the literal and the metaphysical (and the sensual and the philosophical) overlap are often mediated by wordplay — a pun, a double entendre, a witty turn of phrase. The title of her marvelous fifth collection, Felt, is meant to signify both an emotion once experienced [and] the fabric constructed by fibers that are forcibly pressed, rather than woven, together. In "Fair Use," these two meanings fuse, so that felt represents the joyous and maddening experience of human interconnectedness — "a fabric of entanglement == / my consciousness felted with yours." …Throughout these kinetically textured lyric poems — they have varied indentations and line lengths, and are aurally rich with slant rhymes and musical rhythms — the meanings of words shift, contort and refract (one point of creating art, as Fulton puts it, is "to / origami thought"). In the long poem "About Music for Bone and Membrane Instrument," written in a series of 13 sections, a Japanese fan metamorphoses into fan's other usage — a devotee or admirer — as the loss of self shared by both a star performer and a swooning audience member is revealed. In poems obsessed with identity, yearning and intimacy, the power of Fulton's verbal pyrotechnics is that they precisely animate these mutable, ever-changing states.
The New York Times Book Review
Felt was awarded the 2002 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.
2010: Lucia Perillo for Inseminating the Elephant
2008: Bob Hicok and Charles Wright
2006: W.S. Merwin for Present Company
2004: B.H. Fairchild for Early Occult Memory Systems of the Lower Midwest
2002: Alice Fulton for Felt
2000: David Ferry for Of No Country I Know
1998: Frank Bidart for Desire
1996: Kenneth Koch for One Train
1994: A. R. Ammons for Garbage
1992: Louise Glück for Ararat and Mark Strand for The Continuous Life
1990: James Merrill for The Inner Room
Felt was also chosen by the Los Angeles Times as one of the Best Books of 2001 and as a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award.
Full of animated, charged poems, Alice Fulton's latest collection sizzles with logophilia and tropes, is blessed with the kind of direct wiring between sensation and language, feeling and form, that strikes first with physical and then with intellectual and emotional wallop. Hers is a poetic sensibility at once remarkably comprehensive and remarkably precise, and felt; her best book so far is possessed of great velocity, great staying-power.
The 2002 Bobbitt Prize Committee at the Library of Congress: David Baker, Eamon Grennan, and Heather McHugh
This may be Fulton's best book: it is at once accessible and ambitious, evasive and informative, consistently curious, and, yes, strongly felt.
Readers are accustomed to lyric poems advancing with careful grace. Fulton's lyrics travel at startling velocity, flitting through the multiple dimensions of contemporary physics and sensual math (the title of one of her earlier books) in ripples of scintillate diction like god particles. She runs pop culture, literary and political references through her linguistic search engine, locating elliptical emotional contexts for the highly particular elements of obsession.
Her new book, Felt, is fetishistic, wildly associative, demonically apt and simply eloquent, calling to mind Max Planck's quote about the purpose of science as an "unresting endeavor" developing toward a vision which "poetic intuition may apprehend, but which the intellect can never fully grasp."
Fulton's poetic intuition is a kind of apperceptive proof — never false … — but like the poems in this, her fifth book, ... crazy-beautiful, expressive, original to a fault.
Los Angeles Times Book Review
Fulton uses the process of taking in a painting — and being taken in by it — to map a lyric space of vulnerable exposure…. The painting "put me in mind of winter" writes Fulton, a phrase that preserves an ordinary idiom for "it made me think of winter" while it invokes the directive for radical numbness that begins Stevens's "The Snow Man…."
Fulton's mixture of media is edgy and experimental — "This is not an illustration." She stands close enough to her subjects to see that art, visual or verbal, is adulterated by evidence of the processes that have made it ... knifework, which has "left some gesso showing through, / a home for lessness that- // is a form of excess." This paradoxical excess of absence describes a characteristic feature in Fulton's work, here and in earlier books — a lavish and roiling expenditure of imagery and wordplay that draws attention to the means by which any representational illusion of plenitude is sustained. Critics have emphasized the "excesses" of Fulton's vivacious artifice, digressiveness, and heterogeneous diction (I would agree with those who do not consider such "excess" pejorative), and Felt … powerfully investigates the emotional stakes of this "form of excess"….
As it assays the visual arts and music, Felt re-mixes the aesthetic into the "unaesthetic everything" to expose new possibilities for verbal art.
Because separation, here, is all but defined as illusion, words themselves are saved from subdivision into their separate meanings, since "It isn't simplicity that epiphanizes me, it's / saturation, the maximal, interwoven …" On every level, from language to orchestration, this intertwining of meaning and psyche forms a blueprint for the book, making it more than usually important to experience as a whole. Even personal boundaries diminish, with persona poems in both male and female voices and, elsewhere, meditations slipping the bounds between author and aunt and Emily Dickinson. In the deeply arresting poem "Close," there's even the sensation of the speaker nearly merging with a painting by Joan Mitchell, the right-justified margin skewing our sense of edges as well as, formally, suggesting the idea of reflection. Elegant and experimental at once, committed to operating at the freshest tip of the mind, these poems pry through our own readerly boundaries into that risky space in which "what happens to others happens to me. / What joy, what sad." What riches: this is a world defined by and, not but.
… whatever the cause of this truly phenomenal poetry, it is the effect that concerns me: I feel I am being swayed by a revolutionary of some kind, blindly, passionately, and can only make sense of the pieces of my participation…. I believe that a wordsmith of indulgent greatness eventually surrenders the word to the word’s significance, and that it is the significance itself that takes charge of the poem, breaking out against conventional usage, against the physical limitations of the page, against even the poet herself. The poetry becomes utterly synaesthetic. In Felt, I am reading Fulton’s world, not the combinations of her words, and I am not reading with my eyes but directly with the imagination….. Poetic moves like [Fulton’s] leave me where I’ve never been, changing the rules of the game of poetry completely. Fulton’s poetry is not about seeing what Fulton sees but about wearing what she sees. It’s only when she’s stripped you of your comfortable forms and prejudices, chilled you on her wild steppe (“the linguistic blizzard beating still”), seduced you with her breathtaking whirls, that you get it into your head to put it on…. Felt is full Fulton — this time, the myths are her own. She has made a myth of felt, transforming it with the very fibers of her words into the phenomenon of how we see, feel, and are. Felt is also where the bride comes into its own: no longer an experiment or fresh invention, it is now an intimate component of Fulton’s aesthetic, a kind of psychic tool that opens her infinitely creative doorways.
As a self-identified feminist, postmodern poet, one who, from the first, has been as theoretically astute as the Language poets, Fulton has explored multiple (re)constructions of the lyric subject, disengendering as well as regendering it. In doing so, she both attends to the personal and opens her work to that which lies outside the individual…. She is interested in an exploratory inquiry that will discomfit readers and unsettle their expectations, a poetry of inconvenient knowledge (the title of one of her most important essays). She favors the eccentric, calls for a maximalist poetry of “odd, postmodern rapture” (akin to that Moorean ecstasy of the “sort of heightened consciousness”) — that is, a formal excess and emotive content which will unhinge foundational assumptions
In a poem that takes up this symbolic potential, “Fair Use,” Fulton describes how the fabric felt is made (“by pressing/ fibers till they can’t be wrenched apart”)…. This is a poem that posits the insight that we are all interconnected on this planet, and moves into a contemplation of our capacity to feel others’ feelings....
The stays of abstraction that underpin this poem … form the dense, emotional texture of epiphany at the poem’s heart. [H]ere Fulton’s poetry echoes Moore’s in its contemplation of the value of immersion, saturation—excess of feeling … [and] is associated with Fulton’s ethical sense of compassion. As she construes this notion central to Buddhism, compassion is that communal capacity to feel with rather than the distancing effect of feeling for—a sympathy often mouthed but hardly felt in American culture…. Instead of the self-delusions of sympathy, the poem enjoins us through its mindfulness, its mindful contemplation of vertiginously swift shifts, to immerse ourselves, to risk the too-muchness of others’ feelings, from which we ordinarily — unmindfully — try to protect ourselves. To let the world in, close the distance, lower the veil that separates “self from == nonself”: to interfeel.
Fulton‘s poetry has long been the deft handiwork of a writer who delights in the interplay of order and chaos, and for whom artifice and actuality are warp and woof of a tensile fabric. Felt, Fulton's newest collection, is no exception; here, the poet's gaze ricochets between surface and depth, proximity and distance, revealing the way these forces determine the intricate and baffling processes of art and human relations. Texturally rich, these new poems are dense and disruptive narratives where anecdote, observation, and syntactical shifts are fused through lyric and vernacular strands of language that, like the subjects that inspire them … become "a levitation dense / as mind" ("Close"). Fulton's central metaphor of interweaving — felt — is also "the permeable past tense of feel," both of which take on "the shape of flesh / beyond resemblance into same, a thou-art-that oscillates / through pollen-throwing and clasping devices, / ovaries and arms" ("The Permeable Past Tense of Feel"). Questions of origins and inheritance pervade each section of the book, fueling reflections on the artist's struggle between solitude and worldly engagement…. In Felt Fulton attends to the complexities of our entanglement with the cosmos, giving her innovative intellect free rein. By pushing the limits of the "fractal verse" she has long favored, Fulton crafts a contrapuntal music to capture "this century's ambient sound" ("Warmth Sculpture").
… poems like Fulton’s both demand and deliver…. The richly-textured but somewhat hidden architecture of both individual poems and the book as a whole compels us to hold onto a great deal as we read, yet at the same time to pay attention to the basic building-block, the apparently simple word. Though the commonest things (pleats, fans, gems, snowflakes, birds) are reapeated with meaningful frequency, and though Fulton collects and collages from a rich array of sources (science, pop culture, literature, personal experience), her aesthetic is not “no ideas but in things,” but rather no thing except to become word: word to be looked into and played with, examined and cross-examined, until it is fully embodied as — and doing — its own thing.
Fulton has been using word-play as a structural principle since her second book, but the desire in this book “to concentrate / the meanings of felt in one // just place” goes much deeper, as that significantly displaced “just” implies. Fulton doesn’t play with words, she works with them, and the work is important: she cares about how we related to each other and our world (“and that in fact it meant / the world cannot I think be overstressed”), and words seem to offer a kind of example of how we might do it better.
[Fulton’s] variations, and the fuguelike interaction between them, are both dazzling and disturbing, raising important questions about cruelty at the same time that they explore the aesthetic issues raised by Dickinson.… A poem like “Split The Lark” can be seen as an illustration of Fulton’s own aesthetics, defined in her much-cited essays on “fractal” and “maximalist” poetry; the essays, like much of her earlier poetry, are the work of a keen and challenging intelligence. But Felt is both that and something more. Felt is felt, and may in forcing us to work through its magnificent but not always obvious connections (“Felt is often a small or hidden part”), carry us beyond the page. After all, “Emotion // makes its presence felt in flesh.”
The first thing that strikes any reader new to Alice Fulton’s poetry is the authority of her rhythm. Almost brazenly, the power of her line announces that neither rhyme nor formal meter are necessary to the energetic progress of her chant and it is a chant, a strange halting music that never blurs or gasps for breath. The pauses and caesuras are brilliantly placed and give the impression that a never-ceasing voice, relentless and sure, has all the force it needs to carry ideas and impressions as far as they dare to go. Enjambment often threatens to turn poetry into prose, but Fulton uses it to sharpen her phrasing, which in turn is remarkably sure and strengthened by the vividness of her imagery.
Magills Literary Annual
In the alap, or opening, or a raga, the soloist plays every note to be performed during the jor, the extended middle portion of the raga. Each collection in Fulton’s body of work thus far has been her alap: hints of language and ides that flower in her fifth collection, Felt. Fulton explores human experience through an interlace of slant rhyme and lineation with ideas about science, critical theory, and philosophy.
In Felt, Fulton plays on her own use of language. The first section opens with the poem “Close,” as in immediate, and she ends the collection with the poem “Close,” as in terminate; two poems that dialogue as bookends. She titles a poem in the first section “Prequel” while the collection’s prequel is the poem “Slate,” which examines science and the “am” of our existence. Slate is a metamorphic rock transformed by extreme pressure, much the same as felt is metamorphic fabric ‘formed by pressing / fibers til they can’t be wrenched apart.” “Prequel” is an ars poetic that riffs off of the material, slate, as metamorphic rock; the hand, as in the act of creating/writing (“canvas, before the blank canvas”); and the construction of ideas (“each line braves rejection / of the every, edits restless”). Fulton wrestles with what is art, what is truth? She uses the fabric, felt, as a metaphor of the interrelatedness of beings; in the poem “fair Use,” the speaker tells us: “everyone / meshed, a fabric of entanglement == / my consciousness felted with yours.”
American Book Review
Alice Fulton proposes language as felt, a word that refers both to that strangely matted textile — fibers filtered and condensed into unity — and to what Fulton calls in a poem title "The Permeable Past Tense of Feel." In her recently published book Felt , she conjoins the physical and abstract to startling effect, pressing together the majesty of the perceptive act with the ordinariness of experience, and the result is a fabric of complex emotional truths. Fulton's dense and daring work has amazed readers since the beginning….
Rain Taxi Review of Books
For the last 20 years Fulton has been pushing her poetry into new places, incorporating the language of the new sciences, finding and exploiting the multiple layers of sense within even the most common words, and packing her lines and their breaks with sound and meaning, restless even with the very punctuation of the language. For instance, even the title of this new book, Felt, immediately calls up both the verb and the variety of cloth…. It is a poetry that rewards the close reading it demands.
This new book has many of those admirable flourishes that Fulton has been perfecting for several years. But Felt is also a step forward, where many of the hardwon lessons of Fulton's earlier books come together in absolutely moving ways.
The Ann Arbor Observer
In poem after poem, Fulton "felts" the brain into the heart, often via strong visuals, as in the collection's second poem, "Close." … It effectively introduces us to many of the book's other recurring concerns: the power of art, the nature of intimacy, the possible richness of the flawed and ordinary….
Perhaps Fulton's most accomplished application of fractal poetics is in "Split The Lark." … The language foregrounds her theme — in this case human cruelty…. Some of the book's best lines are here.
Felt contains other gems as well. "Prequel" is a gorgeous lyrical meditation on drafting. "Maidenhead" tenderly recalls the poet's own girlhood, framed by details from Emily Dickinson's life and that of a beloved but "unnormal" aunt.... Alice Fulton's Felt is a worthy and exciting sequel to Sensual Math and her other previous volumes.
The Missouri Review
Alice Fulton has been purveying new ways of thinking about contemporary poetry and the postmodern since her seminal essay on fractal poetics appeared in 1986. Along with their shimmering surfaces, Fulton's poems go to the heart. They do so with skill displaying a vast, plastic vocabulary of learned borrowings, neologisms, and scientific terms, not to mention such gems as "suasions hidden in the everyday."
Among the best new books due out [in 2001] is one by Alice Fulton. The intensely personal, cerebral poems of Felt feature as an ongoing metaphor the fabric of the title, which is "formed by pressing / fibers till they can't be wrenched apart."
Dennis Loy Johnson
In this groundbreaking collection, Alice Fulton weds her celebrated linguistic freshness to a fierce emotional depth. Felt — a fabric made of tangled fibers—becomes a metaphor for the interweavings of humans, animals, and planet. But Felt is also the past tense of "feel." This is a book of emotions both ordinary and untoward: the shadings of humiliation, obsession, love, and loneliness — as well as states so subtle they have yet to be named.
Reticent and passionate, elliptical yet available, Fulton's poems consider flaws and failure, touching and not touching. They are fascinated with proximity: the painter's closeness to the canvas, the human kinship with animals, the fan's nearness to the star.
Privacy, the opening and closing of doors, is at the heart of these poems that sing the forms of solitude — the meanings and feelings of virginity, the single-mindedness of fetishism, the tragedy of suicide.
Rather than accept the world as given, Fulton encounters invisible assumptions with magnitude and grace. Hers is a poetry of inconvenient knowledge, in which the surprises of enlightenment can be cruel as well as kind. Felt, a deeply imagined work, at once visceral and cerebral, illuminates the possibilities of twenty-first century poetry.