This is my English 16 term paper. I was required to do research on the life of a female poet then write on an interesting aspect of her life.
English 16, Section 1884
April 14, 2010
Hilda Doolittle was an extraordinary poet who’s literary works continues to inspire and influence today’s poets. “The Most obvious reflection of that recognition was, of course, her award in poetry from the American Academy of Arts and letters in 1960, its first to a woman” (Hollenberg 1). Hilda Doolittle was born on September 10, 1886 in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Doolittle died in September 28, 1961 after having lived 75 years. Hilda Doolittle was also known as H.D. “H.D eventually became the name which encompasses her whole oeuvre” (Duplessis 6). Doolittle (H.D.) had the ability to take her life’s experience and manifest them into her poetry. Whether It was about gender, sexual orientation, self analysis, or exploration it is evident that H.D’s poetry was a reflection of her life.
Doolittle faced gender issues throughout her life. Writer of H.D. The Career of that Struggle, Rachel Blau Duplessis writes,
“Difference may lie in gender formation through education and in the family. H.D. (1886-1961) mulled her family with special intensity and brilliance in essay memoirs which trace patterns of love and power, election and failure inextricably mixed with gender: with being the only girl among brothers and half- brothers, with having powerful, gender-polarised parents” (2).
Doolittle gave her writing a perspective that only a female could provide. When producing her poetry, she preferred to use her initials, which happened to conceal her gender. “Chaste initials were for ever to conceal both a female(Hilda) and a comic name (Doolittle)” (Duplessis 6). Being a female poet was a challenge. “Difference exists in sets of female psychological and spiritual responses which explore the ascribed status of other- that baseline of Western civilization- or probe interlocks of marginalities, among which gender is notable, but which, for H.D., included bisexuality”(Duplessis 2). Doolittle had a number of relationships with the opposite sex but, they paled in comparison to the relationship she had with Bryher, nee Annie Winifred Ellerman. Bryher was a confirmed Lesbian and Doolittle had often spoken of her own bisexuality. “The novelist and editor Bryher (Winnifred Ellerman, an heiress to a shipping fortune), was the most significant companion of her mature life. Their relationship survived until H.D.'s death in 1961”(Scoot). Her sexual identity was a constant struggle in her life. Frances Josepha Greg (student at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine) was a recipient of some of Doolittle’s earliest poems. Doolittle revealed a significant amount of love for Greg. “The strains between lesbian and heterosexual attractions, experienced over the Gregg relationship, entered into H.D.'s novel HERmione ”(Pollitt) Doolittle’s sexual conflicts manifested itself in what was considered to be one of her best work.
Doolittle suffered through many difficulties. She went through a series of failed relationships, she lost her beloved brother in World War I, and She suffered through a hallucinatory experience. Such events effected Doolittle so much that she suffered through an intense writers block that she had great difficulty breaking through. Hoping to find help with her problem, Doolittle came in contact with Sigmund Freud and entered to a series of sessions of analysis.
“During her first round of therapy with Sigmund Freud, H.D. wrote a letter to her long-term partner Bryher in which she discusses the relationship between her life and writing. On 15 May 1933, referring to her traumatic experiences during World War I, she Writes,
‘evidently I blocked the whole of the ‘period’ and if I can skeleton-in a Vol. About it, it will break the clutch … the ‘cure’ will be, I fear me, writing that damn Vol. straight, a history, no frills as a Narthex Palimp. And so on, just a straight narrative, then later, changing names and so on.’”(Dillion34).
Doolittle did eventually succeed in breaking through the impediment that prevented her from writing. The sessions with Freud allowed and provided a creative release that allowed her to write for the rest of her life (Donoghue).
Doolittle spent a large part of her life traveling around the world, but it was her trip of Greece and Egypt that really came to life in her writing. “H.D. inspired herself repeatedly by engagement with Greek materials, imitated and reproduced them to produce herself as a writer” (Duplessis 4). “Helen in Egypt” reflected how influential traveling was to her life and how it impacted her written work.
The reading of Hilda Doolittle’s poetry allows one to have an insight into her life. Whether the poem was about a gender issue, sexuality preference, self analysis or even her travel experience, Doolittle reveals herself through her poetry, allowing for fresh new lyrical stanzas to enter the world of poetry. Doolittle’s life has been a collection of dramatic, yet interesting experiences that allowed for her to be known as one of the most influential poets of her time.
Dillon, Sarah. "Palimpsesting: Reading and Writing Lives in H. D.'s 'Murex: War and
Postwar London (circa A.D. 1916-1926).'." Critical Survey 19.1 (2007): 29-39.
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Donoghue, Denis. “Her Deepest Passion was D.H. Lawrence.” New York Times 14 Feb.
1982. 11 April. 2010 <www.nytimes.com
Duplessis, Rachel B. H.D. The Career of that Struggle. Great Britian: Library of
Fritz, Angela D. Thought and Vision: A Critical Reading of H.D.’s Poetry . United
States of America: The Catholic University of America Press , 1988.
Hollenberg, Donna D, ed. H.D and Poets After. Iowa: University of Iowa Press, 2000,