Archive for February, 2013

What Happened in Class Today?!

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

I know I missed! I’m very sad that I did. I have read Heidi’s bridge to the blog and am about to comment on it, too. But please, people, tell me what we talked about!! I want to know!

Bridge to the Blog: H. D.’s “Sustained Crystal-Gazing Stare”

Thursday, February 28th, 2013


H. D.Near the end of our discussion on H.D.’s Trilogy in class today, we touched briefly on the subject of her psychic gift— she believed that she had visionary powers. As I mentioned, there is a reference to this in an article from the Moravian Church Archives— it was published in their September 2011 newsletter, marking the 5oth anniversary of her death and the 125th anniversary of her birth. (I’ve added a pdf file of the article to this blog’s media library, in case you have trouble opening the previous link. You can find it here— Moravian Church Archives) As Dr. Scanlon mentioned, H. D. had a vision while visiting Corfu with Bryher. I was able to find an article online entitled, The Concept of Projection: H.D.’s Visionary Powers, written by Adelaide Morris. (You can read the article for free here at JSTOR.) According to Morris, H.D. describes (in her book, Tribute to Freud) the images she saw one late afternoon as taking shape on the wall of her hotel room, between the foot of the bed and the washstand— a head in profile, a chalice, a ladder, an angel named Victory… all appearing in an arrangement of hieroglyphs projected from her mind, through her eyes, to the wall in a “sustained crystal-gazing stare.”
Morris writes:

Because the vision rides on will, she must not flag: “if I let go,” she thinks, “lessen the intensity of my stare and shut my eyes or even blink my eyes, to rest them, the pictures will fade out” (TF, p. 49). When, however, she drops her head in her hands, exhausted, the process continues and Bryher, who has until  now seen nothing, witnesses the final image. What she sees… is so consistent with the preceding figures that H. D. compares it to “that ‘determinative’ that is used in the actual hieroglyphic, the picture that contains the whole series of pictures in itself or helps clarify or explain them” (TF, p. 56). With the power of the poet or prophet, H. D. has not only materialized the images in her psyche but cast them onto the consciousness of another and released her audience’s own visionary capacities.

Morris also notes that the word projection frequently appears in H. D.’s writing. Projection: the act of throwing or shooting forward… the thrust that bridges two worlds…. And that definition builds a bridge to the Friedman article we discussed today, especially with regard to the idea of inside/outside in long poems— in Trilogy, H. D. projects her inside world to the wall… to the outside world, for us to interpret.

I checked out a copy of The Gift at the library today, which I hope to read over break— maybe it will give me some further insight to H. D.’s inside. She wrote The Gift during the war, before Trilogy— this work of prose is thought to have helped generate her long poem.

Enjoy your Spring Break!


Alison’s Critical Summary 1: H.D.

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

In “Embracing the Liminal Space: H.D.’s Androgynous Language in Trilogy,” Jenn Wolford Watson draws attention to the importance of the mingling of femininity and masculinity, both in H.D.’s manipulation of language and in her referencing of gods and goddesses. Watson asserts, that by combining both male and female characteristics in her work, H.D. was trying to establish a sense of harmony and regeneration. Watson believes that H.D. created that harmony using different techniques within her writing.

Since H.D. associated war with hegemonic masculinity, she would “invoke the goddess figure as a symbol of rebirth to offset the discord” (248-249). However, H.D. believed that male deities could also play a role in regeneration, and therefore, created a fluid gap between the two sexes. This fluidity is shown through the multiplicity of H.D.’s language. She includes both feminist and masculinist writing in her work. Luce Irigaray, another writer Watson referenced, says that the masculine way of writing revolves around “the fixity of words with a single reading,” (249) while the feminine style is where authors, and readers, practice the weaving of words in order to avoid that fixity. This is something we have discussed in class, in that we’ve already found a few examples where readers can find multiple ways to read one phrase by changing the meaning of a word.

Watson illustrates this point first by looking towards another article written by Lisa Rado. Rado states that H.D. “represents the over-mind, or transcendental imagination, in terms of a confrontation between ratified male and female elements” (249). Watson agrees, and states that because of this union, H.D. is able to achieve a fluidity of language between masculine and feminine. Watson further illustrates the point of manipulating language when she draws attention to the fact that in The Walls Do Not Fall, H.D. references anagrams and cryptograms. He asserts that this shows H.D.’s willingness to allow words to take on singular and plural meanings. By referencing cryptograms, Watson believes H.D. was referring to the power words can have to unlock even deeper meaning than what is on the surface. Watson also references one of H.D.’s other works, Tribute to Freud, in which H.D. says that the language she uses can “break bounds,” which Watson takes as a reference to the binaries constructed around ideas of masculinity and femininity.

H.D. plays with this fluidity within Trilogy as she draws attention to, and connections between, various gods and goddesses. Watson first draws attention to the pairing of Osiris and Sirius. Osiris was the Egyptian lord of creation and fertility. These are traits that link him to birth, and therefore also link him to femininity. He was also resurrected by Isis, giving an introduction to the idea of resurrection, while also tying together the importance of both genders to the preservation of life. Sirius is connected to Osiris in that the Sirius star was the one aligned with the resurrection of Osiris. These multiple branches and connections create a fluidity between gods and goddesses.

The other pairing Watson draws attention to is that between the Virgin Mary and Hermes. Of course the first connection readers would make to Mary is mother of God, but she is also tied to the concept of rebirth. Her name is also connected to Hermes Trismegitus, because he connects his powers of alchemy to her name. H.D. also connects Mary with Venus, who is also used to invoke images of new life. Watson notes, that Hermes was also linked to fertility and rebirth. Furthermore, in Tribute to the Angels, in the sequence starting with “mer” and ending with “Mary,” there is another link made between Hermes and Mary. Within this section, Hermes is connected to bitterness, which is then connected to the sea. Therefore, through this chain, both Hermes and Mary get tied to the sea. The word “mother” is also of great importance in this section. Watson writes that this “demonstration of how words are linked and may expand and contract in their connections reflects the liminal space between the masculine and feminine bond” (252).

In addition to the importance of fluidity, Watson also notes the importance of combining masculine and feminine language in order to promote harmony in the days of World War II. H.D.’s “elastic language” is used to expand and contract in order to  “connect all humanity in a state of tranquility” (253). Watson draws attention to this idea of masculine and feminine language in reference to the section of The Walls Do Not Fall where H.D. discusses the power of word and poetry compared to the sword and war. Watson states, “H.D.’s fluid poetics gives life as it demonstrates the unity she seeks in its androgynous characteristics” (253). Watson also suggests that H.D.’s use of language is a way to “embrace all things” and provide “a sense of closeness and intimacy”(253). H.D’s dismantling of gander binaries is her way of showing she wishes to do the same between countries at war. She wants all to find that connection to rebirth and resurrection. Similarly, as we’ve discussed in class, Trilogy seems to be an evolution of H.D. embracing her world and welcoming peace.

I initially chose this article because the abstract mentioned the importance of the different deities within this work, which was a topic that had interested me in class. I think this article was a good introduction to re-examining the grouping of these figures to see what deeper meaning there could have been in H.D.’s choices of whom to include in Trilogy. I also thought the examining of masculine and feminine information was an interesting new take on subjects we’ve already spent some time discussing in class, such as homonyms.


“H. D. (1886-1961).” Poetry Criticism. Ed. Michelle Lee. Vol. 127. Detroit: Gale, Cengage Learning, 2012. 93-265. Literature Criticism Online. Gale. University of Mary Washington. 25 February 2013


If you’d like to find the original article/source, here’s the original:

Watson, Jenn Wolford. “Embracing the Liminal Space: H.D.’s Androgynous Language in Trilogy.” EAPSU Online: A Journal of Critical and Creative Work. 4(Fall 2007): 119-134

Arnold Rampersad: my thoughts

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

Just some random thoughts:

A speaker Arnold Rampersad came to talk in Tweedy’s 11 am class, “African American Literature.” He related our class as well as Tweedys class (which I am in) with his discussion on W.E.B. DuBois and Langston Hughes he talked about how they related to each other and he even did the introductions for famous books like, “The Native Son” by Richard Wright.

I found him to be a very fascinating speaker he seemed to truly admire Langston Hughes he talked about some of his earlier poems and how they were more singular references where as in his later poetry the meaning was more community oriented. When we were reading Montage of a Dream Deferred he even brought up the fact that it was about the Harlem Renaissance and how their were multiple speakers which we discussed but I still thought it was cool that we were so on point even from a famous critics point of view! If you are interested in some of his critiques I put the ones relevant to are class below:

The Art and Imagination of W.E.B. DuBois (Harvard, 1976)
The Life of Langston Hughes (Oxford, 2 vols., 1986, 1988)

In addition, he has edited several volumes including the following:
Collected Poems of Langston Hughes

I actually read, “The Life of Langston Hughes” over the weekend and I think it truly helps understand him more as a poet. I would recommend everyone to read it! I think it is really fascinating and not a slow read at all.

In this volume, Rampersad traces Hughes’s life from his struggles in the early 1940’s, when his career was being threatened, to his death in 1967, by which time he was a famous writer and a artist whose poems, stories, and plays influenced writers in the United States, Africa, and the Caribbean. He talks about Langston’s coping with his vision of art and radicalism during World War II, but also his contributions to the war.

Despite all of Langstons trails Rampersad showed that he never gave up in striving to be an artist and his commitment commitment to black life and his passion for jazz/blues. It even talks about his relationship with Richard Wright (author of The Native Son). I think this biography of Langston is truly insightful and should be read in order to fully understand Langston’s true conflicts when writing and the true miracle of his success.

-Kristina Tkac 🙂

Mini-Playlist! Add to it in the comments?

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

For Trilogy by H.D.:

Seven Devils, by Florence + the Machine

Iscariot, by Walk the Moon

Johannes Herbst (Moravian-American composer)

Hell is for Children, Pat Benatar (why not?)

Stabat Mater, Pergolesi

Mary Speaks, Daniel Gawthrop (best last name ever)

Anything else you can think of or want to add? I thought this could be a fun idea that the class could collaborate on if people wanted to 🙂 We can argue for or against songs that go or do not go with the reading. Or not, if you absolutely hate the idea.

Triple Goddess

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

Last Tuesday I mentioned the representation of “the three goddesses” that Trilogy reminded me of in its first book. Dr. Scanlon entrusted me with taking this to the blog, so here I go – late as ever (seems to be a terrible pattern engulfing my life nowadays) – to explain the idea of the Triple Goddess. So, I’m going to start in modern day neopaganism and wiccanism and I will work my way back into history. I think that will be the coolest way for me to go about doing this.

The symbol above is a representation of the Maiden/Virgin, Mother, and Crone. In order, respectfully, there is a waxing moon representing enchantment and birth, a full moon representing fertility and power, and a waning moon representing death and wisdom. These are figures seem to have come from the three goddesses of the moon from Greek mythology – Artemis (virgin goddess of the hunt), Selene (mother), and Hecate (a wise old witch).

Hecate was also involved in another triple goddess formation when she became involved with Demeter’s search for Persephone when the young girl was abducted to the Underworld. Hecate helped to commence the search, and once the deal was struck, accompanied Persephone down to Hades annually. Hecate – Older woman or crone. Demeter – Mother. Persephone – Maiden.

Hecate on her own was/is also represented by three separate figures that combine to create a unified figure. She is a goddess of the Underworld responsible for witchcraft and darkness. On her own, she already has the three “phases” of the moon mentioned in today’s modern day neopaganist and wiccan religions – facing three different directions, Hecate is symbolic of three different natures of Woman. She is not only the goddess associated with darkness and witchcraft, but childbirth, protection, and motherhood, despite being a virgin goddess.

Hecate was also something of an equivalent to Isis in Egyptian myth.

BUT continuing the importance of the Triple Goddess –

the ever-mentioned Astarte in our poem also had her very own place in a 3xGoddess formation. With Qudshu (Qetesh/Athirat/Asherah) as the mother figure (sexual pleasure and fertility), and Anat as the maiden (virgin goddess of war), Astarte played the crone (representative of divinity, reproductive power of nature, and war) kind of combining the maiden and the mother into one. She was almost directly adapted into Aphrodite – her Phoenecian association with the “star” Venus stuck with her. Wikiepedia says that Astarte was also “one of the Canaanite deities whom the Israelites must abhor.” If only I knew more about the Bible…

Anyway – that’s the gist of it. Now that I’ve read the entire poem, I actually think I see a way that this idea of a triple goddess can be connected to the poem. But it is indeed far-fetched.

This is definitely a poem that I am going to wish we could spend forever on, but as it is, I know I’ll just have to come back to it later and get to know it just a little bit better. It’s so wonderful and full of gumph!

Gwendolyn Corkill Feb 25, Critical Essay

Monday, February 25th, 2013

Gwendolyn Corkill
Feb 25, Critical Essay

Paul Jay’s assessment on mimicry in Omeros

“Omeros raises the question of whether its reliance on the form of the European epic undermines its status as a Caribbean and postcolonial text.” Jay’s article, “Fated to Unoriginality: the Politics of Mimicry in Derek Walcott’s Omeros” explains that Walcott’s intent with his work is “…to explore his own identity and impulses as a writer, to come to terms with his mixed identity, and resolve some of the critical debates about the orientation and politics of his writing.” Walcott develops a specific trope—the wound—that serves as the vessel for all his metaphor. Jay claims Walcott creates the wound in order to “open and explore it.” As a result, Jay claims, Walcott creates “…a profoundly paradoxical poem that uses a classical Western poetic structure to argue against using classical Western poetic structures.” The “wound” stands for political and metaphorical subjects like slavery, colonization, and “misdirection in writing”. With this he creates the backdrop where he can overlay his ideas and opinions.
Walcott faces the criticism that his work is unoriginal. Jay addresses this writing, “the project’s unoriginality is its major premise.” Jay explains that mimicry is central to the major themes of the poem. Some of these themes suggest that Walcott is wrestling with how to write about the place as a man with confused identity. Jay cites, “The moment [ . . .] that a writer in the Caribbean, an American man, puts down a word,” Walcott writes in “The Caribbean: Culture of Mimicry?” (1974) “At that moment he is a mimic, a mirror man [. . .] fated to unoriginality” This reminds me of the quote attributed to Aristotle claiming that there was nothing new under the sun. Paul Jay writes a bit about this poem in the context of history. Jay writes, “From the viewpoint of history, these forms originated in imitation if you want, and ended in invention.”
Paul Jay sees The Plunkett/”Walcott” relationship as a mirror of his “mixed identity”. Everything that Plunkett is “Walcott” isn’t. Jay explains that the men think and behave in different ways but they seek the same goals. Jay goes on to presume that Walcott created these characters as a way of working out his own issues with being of mixed race and well educated. I suspect Walcott felt like something of an outsider looking in which likely lead to his difficulties writing. Now mimicry takes on a different meaning. Jay writes, “Mimicry in the poem finally has less to do with Walcott’s trying to copy Homer than with his desire to explore the centrality of mimicry in the construction of Caribbean identity”.
The politics of the Caribbean is an interesting subject that Walcott must explore in order to develop authority. In speaking of colonization Jay writes, “…the easiest thing about colonialism is to refer to history in terms of guilt or punishment or revenge, or whatever.” And he reminds us of the rarity of contentment. Walcott is searching for something sort of in shambles or confused—exemplified by the way he jumps from place to place. Jay notes on this saying, “…these multiple displacements and spatio-temporal points are what, following Benítez-Rojo, makes Omeros so thoroughly Caribbean a poem. The Caribbean, in his view, is a sum of its sources…The Caribbean has “no circle or circumference” but is in fact a chaotic assimilation of “African, European, Indoamerican, and Asian contexts”. Jay concludes that the formula mimicry equals imitation invention is in culture and art. The things we find in the debris of what is left are the things that come together piece by piece to make a whole. This seems like what Walcott is looking for.
Paul Jay’s article is concerned with how mimicry affects the Derek Walcott’s Omeros. There are some obvious imitations of Homer and the traditional epic poem. It is clear to me now why this is a work taught in our course about long poems. Not just because it is classified as a long poem but because of its manipulation of genre—our worst enemy and closest advisor. Jay uses this article to prove how paradoxical Omeros really is. He outlines how this affects his writing, how his writing is affected by his history and identity and how his identity influences his politics. Jay’s was a well thought out article, but I felt a lot of his points were unnecessary. It is clear that Walcott intends to mimic traditional epic as such I could have done with less talk of that and more about Walcott’s history and criticism—those were riveting sections. Jay’s article is robust and effective.

Jay, Paul. “Fated to Unoriginality: The Politics of Mimicry in Derek Walcott’s Omeros.” Callaloo. N.p.: n.p., 2006. N. pag. Google Scholar. Web. 22 Feb. 2013. .

Isun’s Bridge to the Blog (Late)

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

Based off of the queries in class as to why these three stones were named by H.D., I decided to look them up and see what superstitions, powers, and/or myths were associated with them.

Onyx – Onyx was very popular with the Romans and Greeks, and anything that is popular in the classical world had a myth created to explain its existence. Onyx is not apart from this tradition. It is said that Cupid once cut Venus’ nails with one of his arrow heads while she was sleeping, and littered them across the sand of the Earth. The fates, seeing this, turned the nail clippings into stone so that they would not lose their divine quality. The name itself comes from the Greek word for claw or fingernail. It was also a material heavily used in Egypt for creating pottery and in Greece for making cameos and the like.

Onyx also is one of the founational materials in John of Patmos’ vision of New Jerusalem in the apocolyptic text of the Book of Revelation. There are twelve gates into the city, there are twelve materials used in the building of the city – jasper is the first material mentioned (I’m saying this because she speaks of her walls maybe being built of jasper), and onyx is the fifth. In newer translations, however, the fifth is agate, and onyx is not mentioned… Interesting, huh? Who knew stones were important in the Bible? (Answer: Not me. Sorry. I’m quite ignorant on the whole matter, hopefully to be fixed over the summer!)

Another fun fact about New Jerusalem – there is a New Jerusalem Church of God in Christ on Moravia Street in New Castle Pennsylvania. I found this from trying to see if New Jerusalem was at all important in the Moravian sect. Then again, it kind of fits even if it isn’t something that may have been emphasized in H.D.’s religion. A post-apocolyptic city that comes down after crises (“end times”) with walls made of jewels – jasper, onyx, agate, sapphires, emeralds… with walls that will not fall. A sacred, heavenly place.

Opal – While the etymology of the word is debatable, “Opal” seems to have come from either one of few places. The first would be a namesake of Ops, the wife of Saturn and a goddess of fertility. The widely celebrated Saturnalia festival (celebrated around modern-day Christmas way back when) had an Opalia built into it to celebrate Ops. There are two other potential origins – the word for “seeing” (like where we get opaque from) and the word for “other”(as in an “alias” or an “alter” to vageuly synonymize). In Russian superstition, Opal does indeed represent the evil eye like was mentioned in class by Kristen(sp?). But, it was also associated with luck and bringing luck because of its many colors during the Middle Ages.

Obsidian – This stone can be found wherever there have been volcanic eruptions, generally. It is easily shaped, carved, and very sharp; it is common to find obsidian arrow heads, plates, etc. from the past. The material is even used to make scalpels today. Obsidian would also be used to make amulets and talsimans from – they were believed to keep away negativity. Obsidian can lessen stress, suppress aggression, and protect from mischeif; more specifically, it protects from the “evil eye” (I know, right?). The material was considered very strongly protective of women, especially.

Based on all these things, I believe H.D. put a great deal of effort into this single line (she seems to have put a great deal of effort into every line, actually). Materials that can be alchemized, precious stones, multi-colored, protective, evil, volcanic, and/or apocolyptic, they all have some relationship to what is really going on in the poem. Every time I read another lyric from this book I’m more and more in shock and awe of how much I’m reading in a single page.


Thursday, February 21st, 2013

our_lady_of_sorrowsFollowing our discussion in class today about the many depictions of Mary, one of my favorites is Our Lady of Seven Sorrows— also, another reference to the number 7. The Seven Sorrows are events in the life of the Blessed Virgin which are popular in Catholic devotional prayers and often depicted in art:
1. The Prophecy of Simeon
2. The Flight into Egypt
3. The Loss of the Child Jesus in the Temple
4. Mary Meets Jesus Carrying the Cross
5. The Crucifixion
6. Mary Receives the Dead Body of Her Son
7. The Burial of Her Son and Closing of the Tomb

Claire’s Bridge to the Blog

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

As I was enthusiastically procrastinating on my Bridge to the Blog earlier this evening, I stumbled across some Dylan Moran comedy sketches on Youtube.  In one of the many I watched, he said the following:

“Religion is simply a formalized panic about death.”

My thoughts meandered at this point to Trilogy and the ideas we discussed in class today, though it took me the better part of tonight to realize the reason for this.  The reason is palimpsest, and it is pervading.

Humans are a race obsessed with death.  We fear its approach and lament its passing.  As H.D. would put it, we are “retrogressive…hankering after old flesh-pots,” ensnared by our vision of life as a series of “incident[s] here and there” instead of an “unalterable purpose.”  What she envisions is infinite, and she wishes for others to see it too.  What she is really expressing when she claims, “The Walls Do Not Fall,” is that the dead do not die, “they continue,” and that we, as humans, along with everything else, compose eternity as the “indelible ink of the palimpsest” (pages 5-6).

This is why H.D. begins Trilogy with the depiction of a dilapidated and nearly destroyed London.  Even though the roofs have been blown off, she observes how this “ruin opens/the tomb”, how “sealed room[s]” are now “open to the air” (3).  With her perspective ruled by palimpsest, she presents an all-encompassing eternity which makes the bombing of London seem fleeting, and less relevant to the vast scope of things.  In this way it is also far easier to cope with.  She could in some respect be using palimpsest as a defense mechanism against the tragedy of war and its influence upon her own life.

However, more specifically, H.D. uses these concepts of eternity and continuation to illuminate and justify the ever obscure purpose of the poet.  In the tenth poem of Trilogy, she acknowledges the question: “so what good are your scribblings?”  Her answer proclaims an undercurrent of permanence to these scribblings, as poems, as “magic…indelibly stamped/on the atmosphere somewhere.”  The final stanza recalls, “in the beginning/was the Word,” identifying the “Word” as what initiated, perpetuates, eternalizes and thus immortalizes something so fleeting as the human experience (17).  H.D. suggests poets are not merely poets; they are the prophets of existence.

More importantly, this is what Dylan Moran thinks about life and death: