Feeling as a Foreign Language: The Good Strangeness of Poetry

Feeling as a Foreign Language: The Good Strangeness of Poetry

Feeling as a Foreign Language: The Good Strangeness of Poetry

Feeling as a Foreign Language: The Good Strangeness of Poetry

Synopsis

In Feeling as a Foreign Language, award-winning poet and critic Alice Fulton considers poetry's uncanny ability to access and recreate emotions so wayward they go unnamed. How does poetry create feeling? What are fractal poetics? In a series of provocative, beautifully written essays concerning "the good strangeness of poetry," Fulton contemplates the intricacies of a rare genetic syndrome, the aesthetics of complexity theory, and the need for "cultural incorrectness." She also meditates on electronic, biological, and linguistic screens; falls in love with an outrageous 17th-century poet; argues for a Dickinsonian tradition in American letters; and calls for a courageous poetics of "inconvenient knowledge." Contents Preamble I. Process Head Notes, Heart Notes, Base Notes Screens: An Alchemical Scrapbook II. Poetics Subversive Pleasures Of Formal, Free, and Fractal Verse: Singing the Body Eclectic Fractal Amplifications: Writing in Three Dimensions III. Powers The Only Kangaroo among the Beauty Unordinary Passions: Margaret Cavendish, the Duchess of Newcastle Her Moment of Brocade: The Reconstruction of Emily Dickinson IV. Praxis Seed Ink To Organize a Waterfall V. Penchants A Canon for Infidels Three Poets in Pursuit of America The State of the Art Main Things ri0 VI. Premises The Tongue as a Muscle A Poetry of Inconvenient Knowledge

Excerpt

For the past three years, there's been a critical outburst against the "formlessness" of much contemporary poetry. This critical bias defines and defends a narrow notion of form, based largely on a poem's use of regular meter. J. V. Cunningham defined form more generously as "that which remains the same when everything else is changed.... The form of the simple declarative sentence in English is the same in each of its realizations." Hence, by changing the content of any free verse poem while retaining (for example) its irregular meter and stanzaic length, one can show its form. And if a poem's particular, irregular shape were used again and again, this form eventually might be given a name, such as "sonnet."

It seems to me that good free and formal verse have a lot in common. In fact, I'd venture to say that both are successful in proportion to their approximation of one another. Often, a metered poem contains several lines so irregular we might as well call them free. The poems of Donne, Blake, Dickinson, and Hopkins are frequently polyrhythmic, and substitutions of one metrical foot for another are common in both classical and Romance verse . . .

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