Whitman’s poetry is full of places where he directly addresses his future readers, acknowledges the time span between them, then shrugs it off. “The greatest poet,” he writes in his preface to Leaves of Grass, “places himself where the future becomes present.” By celebrating the complex legacy of Leaves of Grass, the ten essayists in this spirited collection affirm the truth of its premise: “Past and present and future are not disjoined but joined.”
Walt Whitman, Where the Future Becomes Present invigorates Whitman studies by garnering insights from a diverse group of writers and intellectuals. Writing from the perspectives of art history, political theory, creative writing, and literary criticism, the contributors place Whitman in the center of both world literature and American public life. The volume is especially notable for being the best example yet published of what the editors call the New Textuality in Whitman studies, an emergent mode of criticism that focuses on the different editions of Whitman’s poems as independent works of art.
Written one hundred fifty years after the book’s publication, these timely, innovative responses to Leaves of Grass confirm that the future of Whitman’s poems is vital to our present.