Form and Content

(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

H. D.’s Collected Poems, 1912-1944 is the largest single gathering of Hilda Doolittle’s poetry in one volume. It brings together H. D.’s poetry from the first poems shown to Ezra Pound in 1912—definitive of Imagism—through the completion of her World War II Trilogy in 1946, written as a continuation of her analytic work with Sigmund Freud. It thus provides the reader with access to a wide range of H. D.’s poems written over a thirty-year period, allowing the reader to explore in what ways H. D. was the definitive Imagist—and thus in some ways the true initiator of modernist poetics—and how her early concern with Greece, joined with her later interest in psychoanalysis, led finally to the authoritative voice of the first great modern feminist poet—the poet of the visionary Trilogy with which the volume closes.

The collection is divided into four parts, parts 1 and 2 each consisting of a complete earlier publication, The Collected Poems of H. D. (1925) and Red Roses for Bronze (1931), part 3 bringing together a rich selection of “uncollected and unpublished poems (1912-1944),” and part 4 consisting of the wartime Trilogy.

Part 1 contains many of H. D.’s earliest poems, including “Hermes of the Ways,” the poem that Pound signed for her “H. D. Imagiste” when sending it for publication in the January, 1913, issue of Poetry. This was to be the first publication of poetry in a new style: focusing on the “thing,” using no unnecessary word, and written “in sequence of the musical phrase,” not according to a metronomic beat. Literary modernism had begun.


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(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

H. D. was first perceived as the quintessential Imagist, forever under the shadow of her powerful male mentor, Ezra Pound. More recent criticism sees in her something closer to the true original of Imagism—one whose Imagism, moreover, was acquired naturally, not as the result (as with Pound) of a poetic program.

While H. D. may have started as an Imagist, she moved on under the benign eye and influence of Freud to become a mythographer of the female mystery. In doing so, she repaid Freud’s gift to her with the poet’s insight that true therapy is not limited to the banishment of symptoms but extends to the highest forms of self-expression in the arts—that poetry and healing, in their beginnings, are not divided. H. D.’s work, accordingly, has influenced students of Freud as well as her fellow poets—Judy Grahn being among those who have continued her exploration of feminine myth.


(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

Chisholm, Dianne. H. D.’s Freudian Poetics: Psychoanalysis in Translation. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1992. Extended study of H. D.’s later poetry—of which Trilogy is the centerpiece—in the light of her reading of (and analysis with) Freud. Some knowledge of standard Freudian terminology (such as “screen memory”) helps. Includes extensive notes, bibliography, and index.

Dickie, Margaret. “Women Poets and the Emergence of Modernism.” In The Columbia History of American Poetry, edited by Jay Parini. New York: Columbia University Press, 1993. A sensitive essay, offering an extended treatment of H. D., Marianne Moore, and Gertrude Stein. Dickie views them as figures who were rendered marginal by the assumptions of their male colleagues in literary modernism and who had to wait almost a century for the recognition they deserve and the readers who would cherish them, because they were “at least that far ahead of their times.”

Guest, Barbara. Herself Defined: The Poet H. D. and Her World. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1984. An excellent biography of H. D., tracing the many strands that, woven together, constitute the complex life of a woman whose work was always autobiographical, always rooted in the concrete event as it flowered in symbolic and mythic thought. With bibliography and index.

H. D. Tribute to Freud. Boston: D. R. Godine, 1974. H. D.’s own account of her psychoanalysis with Sigmund Freud provides an entrance into the understanding of her life and mode of work, besides being a fascinating account of both Freud and psychoanalysis. Widely recommended as the first book of H.D. to read. With an appendix of letters from Freud to H. D.

Robinson, Janice, H. D.: The Life and Work of an American Poet. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1982. Another excellent biography of H. D., somewhat more introspective and psychoanalytically conceived than Guest’s. Contains notes, a bibliography, and an index.