The Apocrypha in Trilogy

Last class, we had a discussion concerning the word “Apocrypha” in “The Walls do not Fall;” although our discussion leaned towards Apocalyptic, as in that of Revelations and the End, Sarah Graham (the author of the article I’m going through at the moment) disagrees with the latter, believing it’s too easy. Here is what she says::

The Apocrypha are religious writings not counted as genuine and thus excluded from the Bible by both Jews and Christians, although it would be equally valid to assess their status as that of “unauthorized truth”; from the conventional definition has come the broader meaning of “doubtful authenticity.” H.D. capitalizes the word in triplet thirteen, so that the “fire” that is “over us” could be read as coming from a source that is considered unconventional or fake. While it is tempting–given H.D.’s fondness for wordplay, particularly evident in Trilogy–to suggest that the “fire” of German bombs is “ejected from a can(n)on,” it is more informative to argue that the use of “Apocryphal” in reference to the bombs suggests that, for H.D., the terror of the Blitz finds its source in acts that are subversive, beyond the teachings of any accepted faith, beyond anything that the conventional observer can understand. “Apocryphal,” in evoking ideas of exclusion, must also raise issues about the religious faiths that demand such exclusion: who conveys the “true faith” to us and who decides what must be included or excluded in the process of recording “truth”?….Instead, I would contend that it is a term chosen to provoke in the reader a sense that all texts can be rewritten: accepted truth can prove to be false, and myth can become a part of reality; so, too, can the “meaning” of the war be rewritten by the poet.

-‘We have a secret. We are alive’: H.D.’s ‘Trilogy’ as a response to war

It’s food for thought, at any rate. We’ve discussed the war separately, as well as HD’s role as a poet, but I think that linking them together–thus making the war indeterminate through the power of language–is pretty interesting.


I think I kind of gave Messmer’s article the shaft without meaning to because we got carried away with other things the day it was assigned.  Before we leave it too far behind, I wanted to open a place for people to discuss it.  Messmer traces critical reception of Dickinson, from early discrepancy between assessments of her genius and apologies for/dismissals of her irregular forms and poor grammar; to biographical studies and a quest to define her elusive (male) lover; to a New Critical focus on close reading of the lyrics; to feminist, psychoanalytic, and linguistic readings of Dickinson’s themes and use of language; to an interest in the materiality of the manuscripts and the fascicles and in the genres of the Dickinson’s writings.  Was there anything that particularly interested or surprised you in this survey of her reception?

Dickinson Handout

A couple of thoughts and observations on the handout.

On page 208, the paragraph that is continuing from the previous page seems to imply that the gun doesn’t live a meaningful existence because it isn’t a “self-actualizing animate being.” However, from the poem, it seemed to me that the gun itself was drawing this conclusion precisely because it “[has] but the power to kill, / Without — the power to die –.” Thus the gun draws the conclusion that it cannot really live, not because it is contingent on the “Owner,” but rather because it cannot die, for the only things that “live” must die. This to me would provide a much more interesting gloss on what was, for me, the most interesting interpretation the writer gave of this poem–that of the word and the poet. The word never literally lives because it cannot “die” per say. However, while this author is saying that that grants the word or the poem a kind of eternality “that is not anything terrible” (210) the author of this piece is still questioning the role that the actual poet, Dickinson, plays in this. The writer claims that it has to do with satire, but I thought it was simpler than that.

While the word-poem maybe be the speaker, the writer-poet is still the creator and imbuing the word with whatever she wants. For me, this explains the despair that this writer is observing well. The poet is in some sense, in my reading, despairing over the very fact that only her word will survive–something that has never really lived and never will is what her own life will be remembered through. Talk about injustice.

I don’t know if I’m making this clear at all or not and I haven’t thought through the other suggestion that this writer did not get into, but which I do not doubt is very interesting–that of “consider[ing] the speaker as the poet and the owner as the muse in terms of an inspiriting idea” (210). That sounds just fascinating to me.
And, while I think both of these interpretations are valuable and enlightening to ponder, I’m still trying to work out all of the possibilities that are open just from taking the gun and owner literally. The dashes leave so much open for interpretation even on the most literal level that it’s overwhelming for me sometimes. Looking forward to hearing more about what people make of the dashes.

And one afterthought: this writer interprets “Yellow Eye” as a kind of malarial reference, but I don’t know if that makes sense in conjunction with the “emphatic Thumb” that seems to me to be some kind of aggressive behavior. Are people with malaria really that aggressive? I looked up “yellow” and “eye” on the Dickinson lexicon and the possible combinations was sometimes intriguing, sometimes nonsensical, sometimes ambiguous–but I saw the “Yellow” as a harsh color, in the way that laying an eye on the sun would be harsh in some sense. I dunno. Couldn’t really make sense of that bit. What do you all think?