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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, along with T. E. HulmeF. S. FlintRichard Aldington, and others. Some of her earliest poems gained recognition when they were published by Harriet Monroe in Poetry in 1913.

In 1913 H. D. married Aldington, and in 1915 they had a daughter who died in childbirth. Soon after, Aldington joined the British Amy and left to serve in World War I. H. D. took over his role as the assistant editor of The Egoist, and in 1916, she published Sea Garden, her first poetry collection. Her brother was killed in action in 1918, and that same year, H. D. began a relationship with Annie Winifred Ellerman, a novelist who wrote under the name Bryher; the two lived together for almost forty years.

H. D. published numerous books of poetry, including Flowering of the Rod (Oxford University Press, 1946), Red Roses From Bronze (Random House, 1932), Collected Poems of H. D. (Boni and Liveright, 1925), Hymen (H. Holt and Company, 1921), and the posthumously published Helen in Egypt (Grove Press, 1961). She was also the author of several works of prose, including Tribute to Freud (Pantheon, 1956).

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. 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.

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."

H.D. died in Zurich, Switzerland, on September 27, 1961.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry

Collected Poems, 1912–1944 (New Directions, 1983)
Trilogy (New Directions, 1973)
Hermetic Definition (New Directions, 1972)
Helen in Egypt (Grove Press, 1961)
Selected Poems (Grove Press, 1957)
By Avon River (Macmillan, 1949)
Flowering of the Rod (Oxford University Press, 1946)
Tribute to the Angels (Oxford University Press, 1945)
The Walls Do Not Fall (Oxford University Press, 1944)
Red Roses From Bronze (Random House, 1932)
Hippolytus Temporizes (Houghton Mifflin, 1927)
Collected Poems of H. D. (Boni and Liveright, 1925)
Heliodora and Other Poems (Houghton Mifflin, 1924)
Hymen (H. Holt and Company, 1921)
Sea Garden (Constable and Company, 1916)

Prose

The Gift (New Directions, 1982)
HERmione (New Directions, 1981)
End to Torment: A Memoir of Ezra Pound (New Directions, 1979)
Bid Me to Live, a Madrigal (Grove Press, 1960)
Tribute to Freud (Pantheon, 1956)
The Hedgehog (Brendin Publishing, 1936)
Kora and Ka (Imprimerie Darantiere, 1930)
Palimpsest (Houghton Mifflin, 1926)

The Cliff Temple

I

Great, bright portal,
shelf of rock,
rocks fitted in long ledges,
rocks fitted to dark, to silver granite,
to lighter rock—
clean cut, white against white.

High—high—and no hill-goat
tramples—no mountain-sheep
has set foot on your fine grass;
you lift, you are the world-edge,
pillar for the sky-arch.

The world heaved—
we are next to the sky:
over us, sea-hawks shout,
gulls sweep past—
the terrible breakers are silent
from this place.

Below us, on the rock-edge,
where earth is caught in the fissures
of the jagged cliff,
a small tree stiffens in the gale,
it bends—but its white flowers
are fragrant at this height.

And under and under,
the wind booms:
it whistles, it thunders,
it growls—it presses the grass
beneath its great feet.

II

I said:
for ever and for ever, must I follow you
through the stones?
I catch at you—you lurch:
you are quicker than my hand-grasp.

I wondered at you.
I shouted—dear—mysterious—beautiful—
white myrtle-flesh.

I was splintered and torn:
the hill-path mounted
swifter than my feet.

Could a daemon avenge this hurt,
I would cry to him—could a ghost,
I would shout—O evil,
follow this god,
taunt him with his evil and his vice.

III

Shall I hurl myself from here,
shall I leap and be nearer you?
Shall I drop, beloved, beloved,
ankle against ankle?
Would you pity me, O white breast?

If I woke, would you pity me,
would our eyes meet?

Have you heard,
do you know how I climbed this rock?
My breath caught, I lurched forward—
stumbled in the ground-myrtle.

Have you heard, O god seated on the cliff,
how far toward the ledges of your house,
how far I had to walk?

IV

Over me the wind swirls.
I have stood on your portal
and I know—
you are further than this,
still further on another cliff.

This poem is in the public domain.

This poem is in the public domain.

H. D.

H. D.

Born in 1886, Hilda Doolittle was one of the leaders of the Imagist movement. She published numerous poetry collections, including Sea Garden (Constable and Company, 1916) and Helen in Egypt (Grove Press, 1961). She died in 1961.

by this poet

poem
O be swift—
we have always known you wanted us.

We fled inland with our flocks.
we pastured them in hollows,
cut off from the wind
and the salt track of the marsh.

We worshipped inland—
we stepped past wood-flowers,
we forgot your tang,
we brushed wood-grass.

We wandered from pine-hills
through oak and scrub-
poem

Crash on crash of the sea,
straining to wreck men; sea-boards, continents,
raging against the world, furious,
stay at last, for against your fury
and your mad fight,
the line of heroes stands, godlike:

Akroneos, Oknolos, Elatreus,
helm-of-boat, loosener-of-helm, dweller-by-sea,

poem

Are you alive?
I touch you.
You quiver like a sea-fish.
I cover you with my net.
What are you—banded one?