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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)

Loss

The sea called—
you faced the estuary,
you were drowned as the tide passed.—
I am glad of this—
at least you have escaped.

The heavy sea-mist stifles me.
I choke with each breath—
a curious peril, this—
the gods have invented
curious torture for us.

One of us, pierced in the flank,
dragged himself across the marsh,
he tore at the bay-roots,
lost hold on the crumbling bank—

Another crawled—too late—
for shelter under the cliffs.

I am glad the tide swept you out,
O beloved,
you of all this ghastly host
alone untouched,
your white flesh covered with salt
as with myrrh and burnt iris.

We were hemmed in this place,
so few of us, so few of us to fight
their sure lances,
the straight thrust—effortless
with slight life of muscle and shoulder.

So straight—only we were left,
the four of us—somehow shut off.

And the marsh dragged one back,
and another perished under the cliff,
and the tide swept you out.

Your feet cut steel on the paths,
I followed for the strength
of life and grasp.
I have seen beautiful feet
but never beauty welded with strength.
I marvelled at your height.

You stood almost level
with the lance-bearers
and so slight.

And I wondered as you clasped
your shoulder-strap
at the strength of your wrist
and the turn of your young fingers,
and the lift of your shorn locks,
and the bronze
of your sun-burnt neck.

All of this,
and the curious knee-cap,
fitted above the wrought greaves,
and the sharp muscles of your back
which the tunic could not cover—
the outline
no garment could deface.

I wonder if you knew how I watched,
how I crowded before the spearsmen—
but the gods wanted you,
the gods wanted you back.

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

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

I

On the paved parapet
you will step carefully
from amber stones to onyx
flecked with violet,
mingled with light,
half showing the sea-grass
and sea-sand underneath,
reflecting your white feet
and the gay strap crimson
as lily-buds of Arion,
and the gold that

poem
Silver dust   
lifted from the earth,   
higher than my arms reach,   
you have mounted.   
O silver,
higher than my arms reach   
you front us with great mass;   
   
no flower ever opened   
so staunch a white leaf,   
no flower ever parted silver
from such rare silver;   
   
O white pear,   
your flower-