Future-Founding Poetry

Future-Founding Poetry

Topographies of Beginnings from Whitman to the Twenty-First Century

Sascha Pöhlmann


Camden House



An investigation of how American poetry since Whitman makes its beginnings, with what means and to which political and aesthetic ends, and how it addresses fundamental questions about what the future is and how it may be affected now.

Although issues of futurity have become more and more central to literary and cultural studies in recent years, especially in environmental criticism, no scholarly work has yet addressed the topic of beginnings in American poetry in sufficient scope or detail or with adequate theoretical background. This book is a study of how beginnings are made in American poetry, and to what ends. It borrows Walt Whitman's term "future-founding" to establish a theory of poetic beginnings that asks how poetry relates to notions of the future and how it imagines, constructs, and influences this future in the present. Furthermore, it seeks to change the way literary scholars think about futurity with regard to American poetry: they most often conceive of it in terms of newness alone, yet a deeper theorization of beginnings must open up new ways of understanding the complexities of this relation. With chapters on Whitman, William Carlos Williams, Langston Hughes, Muriel Rukeyser, Allen Ginsberg, and future-founding poetry after 9/11, this book explains how American poetry makes its beginnings, with what means and to which political and aesthetic ends, and how it addresses fundamental questions about what the future is and how it may be affected now.

Sascha Pöhlmann is Associate Professor of American Literary History at Ludwig-Maximilians-University, Munich.

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December 2015
424 pages
9x6 in
European Studies in North American Literature and Culture
ISBN: 9781571139511
Format: Hardback
Camden House
BISAC LIT004020, LIT014000
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Table of Contents

Introduction: On How to Begin, and Where
Whitman: Beginning American Poetry
Williams: Beginning Again
Hughes: Urgent Beginnings
Rukeyser: Communal Beginnings
Ginsberg: Defiant Beginnings
Future-Founding Poetry after 9/11
Conclusion: On Where to End
Works Cited


Employing philosophical theory and deft, detailed analysis, Pöhlmann explores "future-founding poetry," an aesthetic and political mode of "making and marking beginnings" ... of cultivating the future in the present; of negotiating the extremes of uncertainty and determinacy; of connecting beginnings to an "imagination of place." CHOICE

Sascha Pöhlmann's thrilling and ambitious study is a condensation of many strands . . . [of] Whitmanian American thought into the term of "future-founding". . . . Pöhlmann's study is an exhilarating return to the living presence of the Whitmanian spirit that keeps nourishing the American poetic culture. It is also a very interesting [attempt at] capturing the perennial future orientation of this culture. POLISH JOURNAL OF AMERICAN STUDIES

Future Founding Poetry is a meticulously written study whose carefully constructed theoretical framework highlights the aesthetic strategies of poetic temporality and poetry's inherent political character. The detailed close readings of the poems provide novel perspectives on the individual authors' works as well as on the temporal dimensions of the genre of poetry as a whole. AMERIKASTUDIEN

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