Walt Whitman on modern American poetry

This is a prophetic excerpt from Walt Whitman’s Collected Prose on the future of American poetry. Right on the mark, for me, when I think of my two favorite poets, Gary Snyder and Jim Harrison, who have just published a new book, The Etiquette of Freedom, a conversation between two writers filled with vitalism.

POETRY TODAY IN AMERICA—THE FUTURE

walt whitman

The poetry of the future, (a phrase open to sharp criticism, and not satisfactory to me, but significant, and I will use it)—the poetry of the future aims at the free expression of emotion, (which means far, far more than appears at first,) and to arouse and initiate, more than to define or finish. Like all modern tendencies, it has direct or indirect reference continually to the reader, to you or me, to the central identity of everything, the mighty Ego. It is more akin, likewise, to outside life and landscape, (returning mainly to the antique feeling,) real sun and gale, and woods and shores—to the elements themselves—not sitting at ease in parlor or library listening to a good tale of them, told in good rhyme. Character, a feature far above style or polish—a feature not absent at any time, but now first brought to the fore—gives predominant stamp to advancing poetry.

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One Comment on “Walt Whitman on modern American poetry”

  1. noel a light bearer says:

    my teeth are going
    leaving me bereaved


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