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This review is taken from PN Review 171, Volume 33 Number 1, September - October 2006.

OUT OF THE LAB, INTO THE WORLD ALICE FULTON, Cascade Experiment: Selected Poems (W.W. Norton) $14.95

 According to the late Swedish physicist Hannes Alfvén, 'We have to learn again that science without contact with experiments is an enterprise which is likely to go completely astray into imaginary conjecture.' Could this statement be applied to poetry? Does poetry, like science, need experimentation to become believable, to become solid, to remain alive? Alice Fulton advocates this idea in her collection Cascade Experiment, in which she conducts a number of poetic experiments demonstrating the necessity of poetic testing.

Cascade Experiment amalgamates poems from five of Fulton's previous works: Dance Script with Electric Ballerina, Palladium, Powers of Congress, Sensual Math, and Felt. The collection spans her career and is grouped chronologically. There is an obvious growth in her poetry over these 22 years. Looking at the poems collectively, they begin with a certain quietness but gradually become more experimental and loud: lines lengthen, structures change, and subject matter intensifies. For instance, in 'Diminuendo' from Dance Script, Fulton uses shorter lines, soft language, and a subdued tone:
 

 There is another sky
 and then another, in smooth
 segue. The windows are flush
 with its thick fortissimo
 or spacious blue,
 with its one sun,
 open as a whole note.
 

 Later poems, such as 'Echo Location' from Sensual Math, explode:
 

                       Stop quivering
 while I insert straws in your nostrils
 and wrap your head in cloth
 I have immersed in plaster.
           For ...


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