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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)

Sea Gods

I

They say there is no hope—
sand—drift—rocks—rubble of the sea—
the broken hulk of a ship,
hung with shreds of rope,
pallid under the cracked pitch.

They say there is no hope
to conjure you—
no whip of the tongue to anger you—
no hate of words
you must rise to refute.

They say you are twisted by the sea,
you are cut apart
by wave-break upon wave-break,
that you are misshapen by the sharp rocks,
broken by the rasp and after-rasp.

That you are cut, torn, mangled,
torn by the stress and beat,
no stronger than the strips of sand
along your ragged beach.

II

But we bring violets,
great masses—single, sweet,
wood-violets, stream-violets,
violets from a wet marsh.

Violets in clumps from hills,
tufts with earth at the roots,
violets tugged from rocks,
blue violets, moss, cliff, river-violets.

Yellow violets' gold,
burnt with a rare tint—
violets like red ash
among tufts of grass.

We bring deep-purple
bird-foot violets.

We bring the hyacinth-violet,
sweet, bare, chill to the touch—
and violets whiter than the in-rush
of your own white surf.

III

For you will come,
you will yet haunt men in ships,
you will trail across the fringe of strait
and circle the jagged rocks.

You will trail across the rocks
and wash them with your salt,
you will curl between sand-hills—
you will thunder along the cliff—
break—retreat—get fresh strength—
gather and pour weight upon the beach.

You will draw back,
and the ripple on the sand-shelf
will be witness of your track.
O privet-white, you will paint
the lintel of wet sand with froth.

You will bring myrrh-bark
and drift laurel-wood from hot coasts!
when you hurl high—high—
we will answer with a shout.

For you will come,
you will come,
you will answer our taut hearts,
you will break the lie of men's thoughts,
and cherish and shelter us.

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

It was easy enough
to bend them to my wish,
it was easy enough
to alter them with a touch,
but you
adrift on the great sea,
how shall I call you back?

Cedar and white ash,
rock-cedar and sand plants
and tamarisk
red cedar and white cedar
and black cedar from

poem

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

poem

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