Today is the birthday of the poet who wrote under the initials H.D., Hilda Doolittle, born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania (1886). She met Ezra Pound when she was a teenager and they fell in love, but her father forced her to break off the relationship. They stayed friends, and Pound brought her armfuls of books to read every day. She followed him to Europe, and when she showed him some of her poems, he loved them and sent them to Poetry magazine, signing them for her, “H.D. Imagist.” He invented a new school of poetry based on her work that he called Imagism, which broke from formal metered verse and used clear, simple language to describe the world. She went on to publish many collections of poetry, including Sea Garden (1916) and Red Roses for Bronze (1929).
H.D. married twice, and undertook a number of lesbian relationships. She was unapologetic about her sexuality, and thus became an icon for both the gay rights and feminist movements when her poems, plays, letters and essays were rediscovered during the 1970s and 1980s. She befriended Sigmund Freud during the 1930s, and became his patient in order to understand and express her bisexuality. Close to the end of World War I, H.D. met the wealthy English novelist Bryher (Annie Winifred Ellerman). They lived together until 1946, and although both took numerous other partners and they often shared male lovers, Bryher remained her lover for the rest of H.D.’s life.
She wrote the last line of “Eros”: “To sing love, / love must first shatter us.” Such truer words have never been written on the topic of love. Love could not exist without heartbreak and loss, to identify light, you must know darkness first. Her poem “Eros” wrecks me. It is ninety percent love and ten percent loss, which is probably my composite as well.
Her epitaph consists of the following lines from her early poem “Let Zeus Record”:
So you may say,
Greek flower; Greek ecstasy
one who died
following intricate song’s
“If you obey all the rules you miss all the fun.” – Katharine Hepburn