I don’t know about you guys…

…but when I’m stressed out about papers, I tend to indulge in bizarre panic-displacement activities. These usually involve cleaning my room, but my new obsession with Polyvore meant that Wednesday night, I was making Trilogy-inspired outfits. This is my favorite:

Even though putting this together was mostly a way to feel like I was doing work without actually writing, I do think that I was really inspired by Trilogy, specifically “The Walls Do Not Fall,” while coming up with it. One of the things I really loved about “Trilogy” is the idea of the bombings being interruptions–that opening line “An incident here or there,” though casual, really conveys that this had become a variant from every day life. The idea that it was “here or there,” that maybe it would impact you less in some places and more in others, and that above all it was unpredictable, made me think of a party being interrupted. So I put together a party/Blitz-inspired outfit. The dress sort of speaks for itself. I chose the headband because of the flower pattern, which made me think of the flowers in “The Flowering of the Rod” and invokes the “weight of a domed crown” in the description of the Lady. I chose the cuff because it’s not silver, it’s “silver-tone,” which references the metal disappearing due to the war.

I chose the clutch because it reminded me of one of my favorite lines in Trilogy “yet the ancient rubrics reveal that we were at the beginning.” That line, and the references to the secrets of language in that part of the poem, made me think of things kept under lock and key, much like the clasp on the purse. Finally, I chose the shoes because they made me think of the line “Pompeii has nothing to teach us, we know crack of volcanic fissure, slow flow of terrible lava.”

So yeah, that’s what I do when I’m panicking over a paper. Anyone want to contribute some ED ones?

Let’s talk Tribute to the Angels, shall we?

I’m becoming obsessed with palimpsest and it is all Trilogy‘s fault. “Tribute to the Angels” is filled with it. The part that struck me the most was how she connects religion and words. In lyric 8 when she takes the words marah and mar and brings them around to Mary, H.D. shows that there is an easily tracked evolution to religion. Mar means “My lord” in Syriac and the Israelites passed through Marah during the exodus. She tracks how the word evolved until it became Mary. H.D. connects Syriac Orthodox Christianity and Roman Catholicism, two very different traditions built upon the same foundational language, instead of following the common belief that Eastern and Western Christianity are completely different.

I think that H.D. also tries to undo the sexism of religion through this poem. In 11 and 12, she takes on the damage done to Venus’s name which had become the root for all things impure.  She accuses that “knaves and fools/ have done you impious wrong.” H.D. accuses those who slander Venus (possibly members of the ‘new-church’ that spat on the Roman tradition?) as being irreligious. By denying Venus’s existence and importance, they’re denying their own religion. H.D. instead connects Venus’s name to venerate and venerator. By venerating Venus, H.D. shows that she is of equal importance to other religious figures.

Anyone else have thoughts on palimpsest in this poem?And does anyone have thoughts on the woman god described in 29? I know that there are about a million religious traditions she’s referencing; between all of us, we can probably id them all.

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.

To provide some context for “The Walls Do Not Fall”

A bombed-out John Lewis department store on Oxford Street in London.

An air marshal after a bombing.

I think this picture really gets to what H.D. was describing in “The Walls Do Not Fall.” In the literal sense, this photo shows that even though these building have been hollowed out the walls are still standing. H.D. wrote that “the tide is turning;/ it uncovers pebble and shells,/ beautiful yet static, empty.” I think that there is something beautiful to these pictures, but at the same time they are static; it seems like there’s no way that they can be associated with life ever again. I also think that these photos get to one of the deeper themes of “The Walls Do Not Fall,” the role of the survivor. At the beginning, H.D. says “Yet the frame held:/ we passed the flame: we wonder/ what saved us? what for?” I think that it’s interesting that H.D. questions what the impact of survival is in a world that’s completely destroyed. So much of what we learn about the Blitz in school is about the RAF and how the British kept their spirits up, but I think that this poem reveals the reality of the situation: would you want to survive something like that? Especially if you didn’t know how long it would last?

[Photo credits: ARTstor]