The question of poetry's future was asked with surprising frequency across various Western literary languages during the nineteenth century. In Walt Whitman's little-known essay “The Poetry of the Future” (1881), in Arthur Rimbaud's celebrated “Voyant” letter to Paul Demeny (1871), and in a famous passage near the beginning of Karl Marx's Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1851–52), a future poetry was greeted as an original poetry. In each of these instances, however, breaking with the past entailed imitating it, which suggests that poetry's future looks much like its past, the way forward indistinguishable from the way back.

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