HD Hilda Doolittle

a batch of her poems, signed "H.D. Imagiste," along with some of Aldington's, to Poetry in Chicago, where they were published by Harriet Monroe. H.D.'s poems then began to appear in The Egoist, where Aldington served as literary editor until he went off to war, upon which H.D. herself took over the position, to be followed by T. S. Eliot.

H.D. married Aldington in 1913, but the marriage was not successful. A daughter, Perdita, born in 1919, was not Aldington's, and in that year the couple split up, although they were not divorced until 1938. In 1914 H.D. began a close, apparently platonic, personal friendship with D. H. Lawrence that covered four years and is recorded in her novel Bid Me To Live (written in 1939, published in 1960), although the narrative centers upon her relationship with Aldington. But the crucial personal meeting in these years was with the writer Bryher (Winifred Ellerman) in 1918. After the break-up with Aldington, the wealthy Bryher became variously friend, companion, lover, and financial protector to H.D. for the rest of the poet's life, although they did not live together after 1946.

In these years of dramatic change in her personal life H.D. published her first books of poems, Sea Garden (1916), Hymen (1921), and Heliodora and Other Poems (1924). The poetry of these books conforms broadly to imagist principles, and often uses figures from classical myth to give a voice to the commands, evocations, or descriptions within the poem. There is typically more dynamic movement and emotional intensity in the poems than in Pound's imagist work. As some critics have noticed, the undercurrent of powerful emotion seems barely contained by the ostensible subject or speaker in a number of the poems written after 1916-17. The subject might appear more straightforward in the earlier work. In "Oread," for example, the mythological mountain nymph of the title who is the speaker of the short poem calls for the sea's "pointed pines" - imagined as a parallel to the forested mountain - to "cover us." But while the concrete detail and pictorial transference within the poem justify its place as one of the most anthologized examples of imagism, the call to be covered has led a number of critics to note additionally the recurring theme of a "buried life" in H.D.'s poems. Similarly, other poems present pictorially a "border" existence, between extremes (see for example the early "Sea Rose"). The poems in the second and third books more overtly concern gendered authority and the repression of female sexuality and Otherness, both heterosexual and homosexual: poems such as "Helen," "Leda," and "At Baia," and the series of poems that amplify and comment upon Sapphic fragments. Three of the Sappho poems "Fragment Forty-one," "Fragment Forty," and "Fragment Sixty-eight," all from Heliodora, are revisions of unpublished poems much more personally revealing in their earlier versions. Sappho, like many of the classical and mythological speakers in these poems, serves to expand through allusion the poet's voice and themes across time and circumstance, but also in a sense to bury them. Some more explicitly autobiographical poems, such as "I Said," a poem written to Bryher in winter 1919, remained unpublished for many years after H.D.'s death. Responding to this aspect of H.D.'s poetry, Lawrence urged her to bring the emotion of the poems more to the surface, to make them less abstract, but H.D. in turn thought Lawrence's poems too artless and often too fragmentary.

In the early 1920s H.D. traveled extensively with Bryher, including trips to Greece, California, and Egypt, and worked on her first novels. In 1927 she began a personal and professional relationship with filmmaker Kenneth Macpherson and appeared in his silent films Foothills (1928) and Borderline, the latter in 1930 alongside Paul Robeson. She began psychotherapy in London in 1931, and became a patient of Sigmund Freud's in 1933 and 1934, crediting him with helping the renewal of her creative powers and self-confidence. H.D. wrote a good deal of poetry in the 1930s, and continued her translations from the Greek, but published relatively little of the results.

What for many readers and critics is a remarkable creative renaissance began when H.D. spent the years of the Second World War in London. At this time she wrote a memoir, Tribute to Freud, of the figure who became both mentor and male antagonist to her, and the autobiographical prose work The Gift (1941-3) which concerns her family history and Moravian origins. But most significant is the Trilogy (1942-4), a long poem consisting of The Walls Do Not Fall, Tribute to the Angels, and The Flowering of the Rod. Here the trials of the London Blitz are paralleled to the history of ancient Egypt, while the poem synthesizes the Judaeo-Christian tradition and the Egyptian and Greek pagan traditions in its assertion of faith that love and hope will bring resurrection out of the ruins. In the poem's final lines the Magi present their gifts in acknowledgment of this hope.

The years following the war were difficult but continued to be productive for H.D. She moved to Switzerland, but mental and physical difficulties necessitated her residence at a sanitarium. Her Selected Poems appeared in 1957, and she completed a long poem, Helen in Egypt (1961) and the prose volume End to Torment: A Memoir of Ezra Pound (published in 1979). In 1956 she visited the United States for the first time in 35 years, and again in 1960 when she received the Gold Medal Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the first woman to receive it. Since her death in 1961 she has become for many the central female modernist poet, a figure who was unfairly neglected in her lifetime. Her former consignment to a historical role as an associate of the imagists is seen as a result of her subject matter and gender. The experimental fiction and personal essays have received almost as much attention as the poetry. Denise Levertov, Adrienne Rich, and Robert Duncan are among the poets who have acknowledged a debt to her work. The Collected Poems 1912-1944 (1983), as well as the later long poems, reveal a poet much more diverse and complex than the handful of imagist poems once so frequently anthologized as representative of her work might suggest.

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