Alice Fulton’s essay Fractal Amplifications: Writing in Three Dimensions (Thumbscrew 12 [Winter 1998-99]: 53-66) is worth thinking about. I have two divergences or doubts – one, I am rarely convinced that people in literature actually know what they are doing when they discuss theories from mathematics or the sciences and bring them to bear upon poetry; and two, the aspects of postmodernism people find attractive, I find in the avant-garde, which I do not consider to be the same as classic modernism. Still, I am thinking about Fulton’s text – or texts.
In the preamble to her Feeling as a Foreign Language: The Good Strangeness of Poetry (St. Paul: Graywolf, 1999), Fulton suggests that poetic speech is uheimlich in the sense of the undomesticated and ex-centric. It takes place in an untamed zone, away from “the familiar and well-received.” (3)
The eccentric or “good strange,” says Fulton, is bound up with mediation, “in the form of resistance or interference.” “[E]ccentric deviance is different […] from the originality of romanticism or the ‘make it new’ credo of modernism.” Deviance and eccentricity are commonly associated with deficiency, but Fulton sees them as “positive value[s], capable of injecting the foreign into the dully familiar.” (4)
Poetic knowledge is uheimlich and “inconvenient,” and the tongue is “a muscle capable of revising the world’s alignments.” (7)
Here are some fragments from the essay “Screens: An Alchemical Scrapbook” (Feeling as a Foreign Language 11-39):
When I’m lost in the Thou-art-That of composition, the membranes dividing each from each dissolve; the separate self vanishes into an undifferentiated state[.] (12)
I wanted to write this in monument, but I just had ink. (27)
I wanted to write this in diamond, but I just had blood. […] I used paper sacrificed from the gold fingerprints inside trees: high acid foolscap with no watermark. I see, holding to the light a scrap of flimsy, its edge grunged with dust. (39)