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About this poet

On September 10, 1886, Hilda Doolittle was born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. She attended Bryn Mawr, as a classmate of Marianne Moore, and later the University of Pennsylvania where she befriended Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams.

She travelled to Europe in 1911, intending to spend only a summer, but remained abroad for the rest of her life.

Through Pound, H. D. grew interested in and quickly became a leader of the Imagist movement. Some of her earliest poems gained recognition when they were published by Harriet Monroe in Poetry.

Her work is characterized by the intense strength of her images, economy of language, and use of classical mythology. Her poems did not receive widespread appreciation and acclaim during her lifetime, in part because her name was associated with the Imagist movement even as her voice had outgrown the movement's boundaries, as evidenced by her book-length works, Trilogy and Helen in Egypt.

As Alicia Ostriker said in American Poetry Review, "H.D. by the end of her career became not only the most gifted woman poet of our century, but one of the most original poets—the more I read her the more I think this—in our language."

Neglect of H. D. can also be attributed to her times, as many of her poems spoke to an audience which was unready to respond to the strong feminist principles articulated in her work. She died in 1961.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry

Sea Garden (1916)
The God (1917)
Translations (1920)
Hymen (1921)
Heliodora and Other Poems (1924)
Hippolytus Temporizes (1927)
Red Roses From Bronze (1932)
The Walls Do Not Fall (1944)
Tribute to the Angels (1945)
Trilogy (1946)
Flowering of the Rod (1946)
By Avon River (1949)
Helen in Egypt (1961)
Hermetic Definition (1972)

Prose

Notes on Thought and Vision (1919)
Paint it Today (written 1921, published 1992)
Asphodel (written 1921-22, published 1992))
Palimpsest (1926)
Kora and Ka (1930)
Nights (1935)
The Hedgehog (1936)
Tribute to Freud (1956)
Bid Me to Live (1960)
End to Torment (1979)
HERmione (1981)
The Gift (1982)

Helen in Egypt, Eidolon, Book III: 4

H. D., 1886 - 1961

Helen herself seems almost ready for this sacrifice--at least, for the immolation of herself before this greatest love of Achilles, his dedication to "his own ship" and the figurehead, "an idol or eidolon . . . a mermaid, Thetis upon the prow."

Did her eyes slant in the old way?
was she Greek or Egyptian?
had some Phoenician sailor wrought her?

was she oak-wood or cedar?
had she been cut from an awkward block
of ship-wood at the ship-builders,

and afterwards riveted there,
or had the prow itself been shaped
to her mermaid body,

curved to her mermaid hair?
was there a dash of paint
in the beginning, in the garment-fold,

did the blue afterwards wear away?
did they re-touch her arms, her shoulders?
did anyone touch her ever?

Had she other zealot and lover,
or did he alone worship her?
did she wear a girdle of sea-weed

or a painted crown?  how often
did her high breasts meet the spray,
how often dive down?

Copyright © 1982 by the Estate of Hilda Doolittle. Used with permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved. No part of this poem may be reproduced in any form without the written consent of the publisher.

Copyright © 1982 by the Estate of Hilda Doolittle. Used with permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved. No part of this poem may be reproduced in any form without the written consent of the publisher.

H. D.

H. D.

Born in 1886, Hilda Doolittle, through her association with Ezra Pound, became one of the leaders of the Imagist movement

by this poet

poem

Whiter
than the crust
left by the tide,
we are stung by the hurled sand
and the broken shells.

We no longer sleep
in the wind—
we awoke and fled
through the city gate.

Tear—
tear us an altar,
tug at the cliff-boulders,
pile them with the rough stones—

poem
I should have thought
in a dream you would have brought
some lovely, perilous thing,
orchids piled in a great sheath,
as who would say (in a dream),
"I send you this,
who left the blue veins
of your throat unkissed."

Why was it that your hands
(that never took mine),
your hands that I could see
drift over the
poem
Rose, harsh rose,
marred and with stint of petals,
meagre flower, thin,
sparse of leaf,

more precious
than a wet rose
single on a stem—
you are caught in the drift.

Stunted, with small leaf,
you are flung on the sand,
you are lifted
in the crisp sand
that drives in the wind.

Can the spice-rose
drip such acrid