T. E. Hulme: The First Modern Poet?

Interesting Literature

Who wrote the first modern English poem? When – and, indeed, where – was it written? There are numerous candidates, but one could do worse than propose the answer ‘T. E. Hulme, in 1908, on the back of a hotel bill.’

Hulme1This poem, ‘A City Sunset’, would, along with a handful of others by Hulme, set the blueprint for modern poetry. If we most readily associate ‘modern poetry’ with brevity, precision of language, understatement, unrhymed verse, written about everyday and often very ordinary things, then we owe many of those associations to T. E. Hulme.

Hulme was a larger-than-life figure in virtually every way. Standing at over six feet tall, with a ruddy complexion, a willingness to argue with anyone (or, indeed, to fight them: he once famously boxed with Wyndham Lewis in Soho Square), he hailed from Staffordshire, the county that nearly two centuries before had given the world…

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