Spring 1999 • Vol. XXI No. 2 NonfictionApril 1, 1999 |

Fractal Amplifications: Writing in Three Dimensions

During the last quarter of the twentieth century, science has turned away from regular and smooth systems in order to investigate more chaotic phenomena. Rather than being divided into the classical binaries of order and entropy, form now can be regarded as a continuum expressing varying degrees of the pattern and repetition that signal structure. As architect Nigel Reading writes, "Pure Newtonian causality is an incorrect (finite) view, but then again, so is the aspect of complete uncertainty and (infinite) chance." The nature of reality now is "somewhere … between."1 It occurs to me that this shift in focus makes itself felt within literature as postmodernism. In any case, the poetry I am calling "fractal" shares many defining traits of that contested term: postmodern. Since other contemporary poetries show a greater allegiance to romantic, confessional, or formalist traditions, fractal aesthetics describe—or predict, if you will—only one feature of the topography. I say "pr

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Alice Fulton 's nine books include a new poetry collection forthcoming from W.W. Norton in spring 2015. She also is the author of The Nightingales of Troy: Connected Stories (W.W. Norton 2008) and Cascade Experiment: Selected Poems (W.W. Norton, 2004). In 2011, she received an American Academy of Arts and Letters Literature Award "to honor exceptional accomplishment." She is the Ann S. Bowers Professor of English at Cornell.

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