Alice Fulton

Alice Fulton bigraphy, stories - American poet

Alice Fulton : biography

1952 –

Alice Fulton is an American author of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction.

Awards and Honors

  • American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature
  • Library of Congress Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Award
  • MacArthur Fellowship
  • Ingram Merrill Foundation Award
  • Guggenheim Fellowship
  • National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship
  • Michigan Society of Fellows
  • Michigan Council for the Arts, Individual Grants in Literature
  • The Fine Arts Work Center Fellowship
  • Finalist, Los Angeles Times Book Award


Fulton’s "fingerprint-distinct voice" is immediately recognizable for its poetic ambition laced with humor and shifting poetic diction. While sharing an interest in scientific metaphors and diction with her mentor, A.R. Ammons, she differs from Ammons through her engagement with injustice and cruelty. In a statement accompanying her selection of Lisa F. Jackson’s film, The Greatest Silence, for the 2008 "Revolution" writers conference and film festival at University of North Dakota, Fulton had this to say about her poetics:

"As a poet and writer, I’m committed to undermining postures of arrogance and entitlement, the context of ‘impunity’ [depicted in The Greatest Silence]. Silence — especially enforced silence – has been one of my deep subjects, as has resistance, a quality as important to poetics as to revolutions. I’ve tried to engage with the background rather than the figure, to find new linguistic ways of confronting disenfranchisement, cruelty, and suffering, while retaining the uncanny qualities of poetry. I’ve tried to be a student of inconvenient knowledge — the sort of knowledge that, when taken to heart, forces us to change our lives in revolutionary ways."

Sacred, religious, spiritual, compassionate, and ethical themes are incorporated in her work. Miller has noted that "faith" is an "issue that comes up in all of [Fulton’s] volumes and in poem after poem," as have Marchant and others. Peter Brier asserts that "Fulton conveys much of the ecstasy that is associated with the strongest religious poets, poets such as Gerard Manley Hopkins" with similarities in phrasing, imagery, and sprung rhythm. Camille Paglia also finds "heavy sprung rhythms … reminiscent of the poet-priest Gerard Manley Hopkins" and that Fulton’s "ecstatic techniques" are deployed "for far earthier and more carnal purposes."

"Like the Language poets, Fulton is interested in linguistic play and artifice, and also in critical theory and philosophy, although the theories most evident in her poetry and essays are those of science and mathematics." "From the first," Fulton "has been as theoretically astute as the Language poets" as well as being interested in a poetry that will "discomfit readers and unsettle their expectations, a poetry of inconvenient knowledge," a phrase originally used in Fulton’s 1997 essay.

Fulton first proposed her ideas for a new poetics based on the concepts of fractals and emergent patterns in her 1986 essay, "Of Formal, Free, and Fractal Verse: Singing the Body Eclectic," in which she uses the term "fractal" to suggest "a way to think about the hidden structures of free verse." Tigerlily states that Fulton “coined the phrase ‘fractal poetry’ as a method of revisioning the value of both formal and free verse, calling the ‘poetry of irregular form fractal verse.’”

Some critics have taken Fulton to task for an inexact usage of "fractal." Other critics have countered that her use of "fractal" is more metaphorical than literal. Susan Duhig in the Chicago Tribune noted that "For Fulton, the fractal serves as a potent metaphor for a poetry with a form that exists somewhere between utter shapelessness and the Euclidean order of regular meter and genre, a poetry whose volatile, irregular patterning exists on the threshold of structure." Duhig concluded that Fulton's essays explicate "one possible language for understanding poetry in the age of quantum mechanics." Biogeneticist Ana Marti-Subirana writes at length and with specificity on how "Chaos theory and fractal poetics allow Fulton to analyze the complexity of social structures and cultural constructions through new perspectives in poetic form." Fulton's fractal poetics operates "as a means to engage both the poet and the reader of poetry into an intellectual immersion beyond the obvious."