Hilda Doolittle, 1886-1961 
photo of the poet known simply as H.D. in the 1910s


She’s been called an Imagist, feminist, mythologist, lesbian and mystic.  But she transcends any label or even cluster of labels.  To give you an idea of why H.D. is one of my favorites, here are two of her poems:



4  [from The Walls Do Not Fall (1944)]

There is a spell, for instance,
in every sea-shell:
continuous, the seathrust
is powerless against coral,
bone stone marble
hewn from within by that craftsman,
the shell-fish:
oyster, clam, mollusc
is master-mason planning
the stone marvel:
yet that flabby, amorphous hermit
within, like the planet
senses the finite,
it limits its orbit
of being, its house,
temple, fane, shrine:
it unlocks the portals
at stated intervals:
prompted by hunger,
it opens to the tide-flow:
but infinity? no,
of nothing-too-much:
I sense my own limit,
my shell-jaws snap shut
at invasion of the limitless,
ocean-weight; infinite water
can not crack me, egg in egg-shell;
closed in, complete, immortal
full-circle, I know the pull
of the tide, the lull
as well as the moon;
the octopus-darkness
is powerless against
her cold immortality;
so I in my own way know
that the whale
can not digest me:
be firm in your own small, static, limited
orbit and the shark-jaws
of outer circumstances
will spit you forth:
be indigestible, hard, ungiving
so that, living within,
you beget, self-out-of-self,
selfless,
that pearl-of-great-price.


* * *

Sheltered Garden

I have had enough.
I gasp for breath.


Every way ends, every road,
every foot-path leads at last
to the hill-crest —
then you retrace your steps,
or find the same slope on the other side,
precipitate.


I have had enough —
border-pinks, clove-pinks, wax-lilies,
herbs, sweet-cress.


O for some sharp swish of a branch —
there is no scent of resin
in this place,
no taste of bark, of coarse weeds,
aromatic, astringent —
only border on border of scented pinks.


Have you seen fruit under cover
that wanted light —
pears wadded in cloth,
protected from the frost,
melons, almost ripe,
smothered in straw?


Why not let the pears cling
to the empty branch?
All your coaxing will only make
a bitter fruit —
let them cling, ripen of themselves,
test their own worth,
nipped, shrivelled by the frost,
to fall at last but fair
with a russet coat.


Or the melon —
let it bleach yellow
in the winter light,
even tart to the taste —
it is better to taste of frost —
the exquisite frost —
than of wadding and of dead grass.


For this beauty,
beauty without strength,
chokes out life.
I want wind to break,
scatter these pink-stalks,
snap off their spiced heads,
fling them about with dead leaves —
spread the paths with twigs,
limbs broken off,
trail great pine branches,
hurled across the melon-patch,
break pear and quince —
leave half-trees, torn, twisted
but showing the fight was valiant.


O to blot out this garden
to forget, to find a new beauty
in some terrible
wind-tortured place.


* * *

To read Wikipedia’s interesting biography of H.D., click here.

To check out the H.D. home page at imagists.org click here.

I also recommend these books available through Amazon:



   

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