I feel you H.D.

So I can’t say by any means that I get Asphodel, but I dig it. And now for a simile. I feel like H.D. grabbed by the arms and did they spinny thing you did when you were a kid. (You know when some one whips you around really quickly and you feel like you are flying) You feel everything thats going on but you dont really get how it works. As Im spinning I can kind of see the colors and the outlines of shapes, but because I am moving so quickly, I am not entirely sure what I am seeing. And every now and again she lets me down (everyone’s arms get tired after spinning people) but when she does I am so dizzy I still am kind of bouncing around in a daze and then she just picks me up again and starts spinning me again.

Though I have been mostly following the book, I got kind of lost as too who Merry is, which led me too my second ponderance on H.D.’s writing style. I wonder if she writes in these huge blocks of type not just for the steam of conscientious effect but also for the direct purpose of making the reader lost. The reader cannot back track one or two paragraphs to re-establish their footing, they have to either re read pages of text, or carry on lost. Perhaps this intention is made in order to place us in a similar mind frame as the character we are reading about, or to force us to read more deeply into her text?

Site of Genius

H.D.’s writing desk:

H.D. and Lo Fu

I really loved  Notes on Thought and Vision, but one thing drove me absolutely crazy. In it, H.D. refers to the Ming dynasty poet Lo Fu, who was writing around 184 A.D. At that point in reading, I threw the book down and yelled “OH NO HE DID NOT” (because I am totally normal). As the notes in the back explain, H.D. was a good 1000 years off; the Han dynasty reigned from 206 BCE to 226 CE and the Ming dynasty was 1368 to 1644.

This was probably just a chronological mistake on H.D.’s part. After all, Notes on Thought and Vision had not been prepared for publication, so it’s possible that an editor would have corrected it. Although it is really interesting to consider the implications if it had been intentional: the Han Chinese were considered to be the only truly ethnically Chinese people and the rightful heirs to the dynastic legacy. The Ming dynasty, by contrast, was begun by a poor peasant who rose to emperor through his own skills. So if the mistake was intentional, it would seem as though H.D. was celebrating the hardworking Ming Taizu over the Han emperors.

The notes in the back of Notes on Thought in Vision indicated that the editor wasn’t sure who exactly H.D. was referring to. There was a Lo Fu active in the Han dynasty, but she was a shadowy figure. I asked Dr. Fernsebner, UMW’s Chinese history professor, about Lo Fu today in class. Unfortunately, she doesn’t know of Lo Fu, but she did tell me that during the early 20th century, there was an insane commodification/fetishization of Chinese art. Not only were people collecting it, they would also create their own. Charles Freer, who founded the Freer Gallery in D.C., apparently commissioned a portrait of his daughter done in a Chinese style. It would seem that H.D.’s inclusion of Lo Fu could be attributed to the Chinese trend. Though I would have to do some research to see if this is true, my assumption is that H.D. and others would latch onto the Ming dynasty as being an “ancient” Chinese dynasty because it had come before the Qing dynasty, which had just fallen in 1912.

H.D. and Sappho

Hey all, I told my small group last Thursday that I would post this website that relates H.D. to Sappho, citing the fragments she’s referring to and then presenting H.D.’s take on them.

I also came across on Google Books the original copy of Sappho translations that H.D. was working with. Here it is.

Christine’s Bridge to the Blog

In our group discussion of “Heliodora” we focused on the importance of identity and naming. Initially the repetitive use of flower imagery and the quotation, “ …Myrrh- curled.” led our group to believe that the speaker and the “he” of the poem were attempting to name a child that has died. Yet we quickly began to pick up on a vein of competition that runs throughout the poem. H.D. writes, “So I saw the fire in his eyes,/it was almost my fire…”(60-61). This quotation seems to capture a sense of closeness with the “he” of the poem, there seems to be an almost confusion of their different fires, as though they are almost the same. Yet this similarity between their “fires” gives rise to lines like these, “(the phrase was just and good,/but not as good as mine,)”(7-8). This quotation seems to suggest that there is a competition between the speaker and the “he”, it is as though the action of the poem, the naming, is an artistic exercise and the two individuals are attempting to, “….vie with the nine…”(78).  against one another.

In our discussion we quickly began to see the “he” of the poem as one of H.D.’s lovers. I am of the opinion that we do not need to know who the “he” is, but rather that the important aspect of their relationship that is isolated in the poem is H.D.’s own insecurities about her artistry. In the poem “the nine” (as in the nine muses) are frequently referenced H.D.  writes, “…surprise the muses ,/ take them by surprise…”(66-67).  Yet at the end of the poem H.D. seems to be struggling with her own abilities in the face of another’s poetry, she writes, “….There will never be a poet,/ in all the centuries after this,/ who will dare write,/ after my friend’s verse…”(122/125). This quotation seems to suggest a certain insecurity, it is as though H.D. is not secure in her talents, or at least feels the need to impress her “friend”. In talking with Dr. Scanlon we discussed how H.D. was frequently referred t as a muse, but not a poet and perhaps that is the source of H.D’s insecurities and the source of the artistic competition between the two individuals in the poem.

To return to the idea of naming and identity, perhaps H.D’s insecurities arose because she feared that she was only a muse and not an artist herself. In that case her name “H.D.” gains great significance because it transforms her into an artist rather than a muse. Our group pointed out that it seems that there is connection between the title of the poem “Heliodora” and “H.D.” and Dr. Scanlon confirmed that H.D was indeed obsessed with punning her own name. When viewed in this light our initial reaction to the poem as being about death is in some ways still partially true. It would seem that in gaining the name H.D. and her identity as an artist another part of her identity had to be suppressed, that of Hilda Doolittle.

How I spend my time

I decided that it was a Good Life Decision to wander around the internet in search of H.D.-related media instead of writing an essay. And I’m very glad I did, because I found this amazing image of H.D.

I am in love with this. I am tempted to call the library holding it to see if it’s possible to get some sort of reproduction of it because I kind of want to frame it. Aside from my love of old film, it is so H.D. to me. The image is very quiet but very powerful at the same time. It made me think about how much an author’s image can influence what you think of their work and vice-versa.  I’d never read any Emily Dickinson before this class, but I had an idea of her work just based on that one photograph of her: sweet and very 19th century. Whereas when I think of H.D., I automatically have visions of Hermione (and now “The Sea Garden”) in my  head. What I find interesting about Dickinson and H.D. is that, even though they wrote during different eras, they were both active during a time when photography was becoming more common but they both used it in very different ways. Dickinson avoided it almost entirely whereas H.D. really embraced it. I can’t help but wonder if that was very imagiste of H.D.; looking at those photographs of her in Scanlon’s powerpoint, I could tell that she was using imagery to create a narrative in a very similar way that she did in her poetry.

By the way, the above image is a bit of filmstrip, circa 1927, that is held in the Beinecke Library at Yale. They have a lot of great stuff; there are some typed versions of H.D.’s poems complete with her edits, lots of pictures, and screenshots from Borderline (although a warning: when you first search for H.D. in the Beinecke database, you get some random early maps of the US). It’s a great resource that I think everyone should check out, if only for the awesome pictures.

Structure of The God

As I am reading through the section The God for tomorrow I am struck by the structure of the section. Something that I personally have never looked at ver closely, but probably should have is how the entire compilation of poems fits together. I guess to me something odd I noticed was that there was a shift from the sections of the poems being ordered by roman numerals to regular numbers in The Tribute. My uneducated though on this would be that there is a shift from greek/roman gods and mythology to a poem that, although it still mentions gods, shifts its focus in a more global direction. I also find it interesting to switch from poems that are 4+ pages long to ones that are a few stanzas and back to longer poems. As a reader I personally like this set up as it visually, for me at least, gives a break in the reading that helps me to refocus on the next poem. Does anyone else feel that this was done intentionally to alter the reading process? Why the switch in numbering/numerals?

Powerpoint: HD Bio

The powerpoint is now on the Readings page.

H.D.’s London home

With some help from Scanlon, I found H.D.’s house in Mecklenburg Square this summer. It’s in a very quiet part of London, literally. There was hardly anyone around and almost no traffic. It was bizarre but wonderful. It’s currently a private residence and I am sure costs about one million pounds more now than it did when H.D. lived there. As the sign notes, she lived in London during the latter years of World War One, and I’m interested to see if that had any influence on her work.

(Ultra-dorky confession time: After I took this picture, I (very quietly, so as not to scare the mailman walking by) said to myself “One I love, two I love, three I love. I don’t really love now anybody,” my favorite line from HERmione)

H.D. Reads from Helen in Egypt

“Helen In Egypt:” Few Were The Words

“Helen In Egypt:” How Did We Greet

Thought I’d post these now before I forget. Enjoy!

It’s H.D. reading from Helen in Egypt (if you didn’t figure that out from the title). The first one begins with “Few were the words” and the second one with “How did we greet.”