Alice Fulton—whose work has been included in five editions
of The Best American Poetry series, and whose
latest collection, Felt, was named one of the best
books of the year by the Los Angeles Times, in addition
to being awarded the 2002 Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry
from the Library of Congress—didn’t attend graduation from
Troy Catholic High School. In fact, this recipient of both
a Guggenheim and MacArthur Fellowship says she was “a terrible
student who got very bad grades.” She “forgot” to take her
final French exam, and had to go to summer school to get
her diploma. Her custom-made white graduation dress went
have to say, it shocked me,” admits Fulton, who is professor
of English at her alma mater, Cornell University. “Sure,
I was dreamy and depressed, but I didn’t think I was going
to fail high school. I remember thinking, ‘The worst really
can happen.’ But that wasn’t a bad thing—it woke
me up. I applied myself more fervently from then on.” And
there are certain advantages to being dreamy: Fulton says
she wrote poetry all through high school, and was thrilled
to have a poem published in the Washout Review, a
small literary magazine from Schenectady. “If you take it
step by step, it can happen,” she says. Subsequent steps
for the young poet included publication in The New Yorker,
The Paris Review and The Atlantic Monthly.
Fulton, who grew up a block away from the Rensselaer Newman
Foundation, will read from her works at the Newman Chapel
& Cultural Center on Tuesday.
As for her graduation dress, it too has a happy ending.
The gown, along with Emily Dickinson’s famous white dress—which
Fulton saw at Amherst in the 1980s—were the inspiration
for Felt’s enthralling six-page meditation “Maidenhead.”
Fulton revisited her “un-graduation dress” in her mother’s
closet, where it had been mothballed for 20 years in a zippered
“body bag.” “I began thinking about other white gowns that
have symbolic meaning, like bridal gowns, and about brides-to-be
and virginity, and about Emily Dickinson and loneliness,”
the poet says. “‘Maidenhead’ is not just about virginity
and the hymen, but about how the head is the ultimate private
space—we can never know each other’s thoughts. Our heads
are far more private than any other spaces of the female
With its longer, more lyrical poems, Felt,
her fifth book, is considered a departure for the
poet, who is lauded for her verbal pyrotechnics. “I wanted
it to be long and I wanted it to meander,” she says of “Maidenhead.”
“I like poems that start in one place and before you know
it you’re someplace else, and then you’re drawn back again.
It’s very vertiginous.” Or as the Los Angeles Times
puts it: “Fulton’s lyrics travel at startling velocity.”
Like the poems within it, the title of Felt has layers
of metaphor. “One meaning is, of course, the past tense
of feel, which was interesting because I had never allowed
myself to write directly about emotion before,” she says.
“I thought that might be too manipulative; emotion had always
entered my work indirectly.” The title’s other meaning
is the textile. “Felt is made by different fabrics becoming
tangled or crushed together into a mass that can’t be unwoven,”
she says. “It doesn’t unravel, even if you cut it. So it
became a metaphor for human interconnectedness, for the
way that everything is a part of everything else and how
we can’t extricate ourselves from others.”
Alice Fulton will appear at the Newman Chapel + Cultural
Center, Burdett Ave., Troy, on Tuesday (March 4) at 7:30
PM. The free reading will encompass an informal Q&A,
followed by a book signing. For more information, call 274-7793.
the collateral casualties of the terrorist attacks of Sept.
11, 2001, were a number of artistic works that were held
up, altered or shelved out of concern that their content
might be considered inappropriate in the tragedy’s aftermath.
Surely you recall the Clear Channel list of songs deemed
too sensistive for radio airplay, or the fact that Spider-man
had to be re-edited to excise a scene of the hero spinning
a web between the Twin Towers. Locally, independent film
company DMG Films postponed its premiere of Dean Giagni’s
new short film The Situationist, in which the protagonist,
artist/anarchist Winston Smith, attempts to redeem New York
City by blowing it up piece by piece.
Conceived, written and filmed prior to 9/11, Giagni’s film
draws perspective from the Internationale Situationniste
movement of the ’60s, which did precipitate a general strike
in France but obviously fell far short of its goal of a
worldwide proletarian revolution before dissolving in 1972.
In The Situationist, Smith attempts to merge art
and life by creating chaos and destruction as he prepares
to mount his new exhibit. With its premiere screening now
slated for tonight (Thursday) at the Albany Public Library,
the filmmakers—who have made no changes to the film’s content—have
issued a statement assuring potential viewers that the material
is presented “in a mature and thoughtful manner,” while
also reminding them that the film is about a terrorist,
and is for mature audiences only.
The Albany Independent Film Forum presents The Situationist
tonight (Thursday, Feb. 27) at 7 PM at the Albany Public
Library (161 Washington Ave.). The filmmaker will speak
and answer questions following the screening. Free. Call
427-4300 for information.
Marsalis and Sons
Marsalis, New Orleans jazz pianist extraordinaire, is accompanied
by his prodigiously successful sons on a new album—The
Marsalis Family: A Jazz Celebration—and on a current
concert tour of the United States and Canada. It doesn’t
seem possible, but this is the first time that all musical
members of this estimable family have toured together professionally.
In August 2001, the elder Marsalis retired from teaching
music at the University of New Orleans. The occasion was
marked with an all-Marsalis family concert, which inspired
the album project and tour.
What else but familial affection could bring such high-profile
musicians together? Trumpet virtuoso Wynton Marsalis is
busy with his own band, not to mention his involvement with
Jazz at Lincoln Center and work with music education. Saxman
Branford Marsalis has his own band too, naturally, with
a full schedule of recording and touring. Trombonist Delfeayo
Marsalis has a career as a producer, with more than 70 recordings
to his credit, and drummer Jason Marsalis has been in various
Latin fusion and traditional jazz ensembles. (There is one
non-Marsalis in the group: bassist Reginald Veal. Wonder
how that happened.)
This mini-tour of North America features only five stops
stateside: Newark, Philadelphia, Syracuse, Boston and Schenectady.
Who says the Capital Region isn’t special?
Ellis Marsalis and Sons will perform at Proctor’s Theatre
(432 State St., Schenectady) tonight (Thursday, Feb. 27)
at 8 PM. Tickets are $65, $50, and $30. For reservations
and information, call 346-6204.