A summary of a key modernist essay
There are numerous documents which might be described as ‘manifestos’ for modernist poetry in English – Ezra Pound’s ‘A Few Don’ts by an Imagiste’ springs to mind – but T. E. Hulme’s ‘A Lecture on Modern Poetry’ was almost certainly the earliest. It’s an important announcement of a new poetic style and, in a small way, a revolutionary document in modern poetry. You can read ‘A Lecture on Modern Poetry’ in full here, but in this post we’re going to try to analyse Hulme’s essay and pinpoint why it was so important.
In 1908, there was a widespread feeling – well, it was widespread among a small but significant group of new poets, anyway – that a new way forward needed to be found for English verse. Algernon Charles Swinburne, who would die the year later but who had been a powerful force in English poetry since the 1860s, proved a particular sticking-point.