Posts Tagged ‘crystal-gazing stare’

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!