Posts Tagged ‘Trilogy’

Katie’s Critical Summary 1: H.D.

Saturday, March 2nd, 2013

In her article, “Falling Walls: Trauma and Testimony in H.D.’s Trilogy,” Sarah Graham provides and argument that H.D.’s Trilogy is a combination of both H.D.’s need to discuss the war, as well as her need to repress the horrific nature of war. Graham uses trauma therapy as a model in which to depict H.D. as a trauma survivor, therefore rendering her a traumatized poet. She proposes that throughout H.D.’s career the effects of trauma produce what she has deemed “a poetics of indirection: a range of prosodic strategies that communicate the pain, fear and anguish generated by war” (299).

Although H.D. is a non-combatant, the extensive psychological effects the war has on her is shown through her frontline-like language, allowing her poetry to be a celebration over the chaos of war, as well as the power of creativity over destruction (304). Graham’s initial inspection of the poem asserts that because H.D. was a non-combatant, as well as a woman, the societal understanding of war effects up to that point had typically encompassed just males. She interestingly points out that although “shell shock” was solely a male experience from war, it is incredibly similar to the female experience Freud deemed as “hysteria.” Trauma theory confirms that H.D. would need to ‘own’ (possess control over) her difficult wartime (and/or childhood) experiences in order to escape their debilitating effect upon her” (306).

In Trilogy, she refers often to the Bible, allowing the reader insight into her war-torn perspective. Graham asserts that, “the speaker in ‘Tribute to the Angels’ says, ‘I John saw. I testify,’ overtly alluding to John’s role as witness in the Bible’s ‘Book of Revelations’ and positioning herself in a comparable role. What is key here is that John and H.D.’s speaker both see and testify: they witness and then communicatewhat they have seen” (308). H.D. using the Bible as assistance allows her to speak with company, responsibility, and honesty. Two factors Graham believes may have assisted H.D. in the writing/testifying of her poetry are the societal changes in attitude in terms of war, and her work with Freud. Both of these factors are of such importance because the change in attitude allowed everyone, not just men to feel the effects of war because it was experienced on all fronts. This goes hand in hand with Freud’s psychoanalysis and gender study of H.D. because the profound effect the war had on her exceeded the understanding of the time. Graham also focuses on H.D. as a marginalized writer of the time, stating, “H.D. was aware of her marginal status as woman and writer… and that the cultural center overtly denied the legitimacy of her voice and refuted her right to discuss war” (305).

In the second section of Graham’s argument, she delves deeper into H.D.’s time with Freud and the war, as well as H.D.’s trip to Egypt with Bryher. These experiences laid the groundwork of much of Trilogy. The ruins seen throughout the poem can be directly related to either war or Egypt, as the two women’s trip had a profound effect on H.D, as well as the war had, so the parallel between the two experiences is strong. Graham states that “such associations suggest that in Trilogy fallen walls represent, not only the traumatized city, but also the traumatizedsubject. Indeed, for H.D. the new war was characterized by falling walls: livingthrough the Blitz on London, she was subjected to ‘crashes, bangs, the roar ofcollapsing buildings, and the non-stop anti-aircraft gunfire night after night’” (312). The relationship between archeology and walls are important in Trilogy, as the metaphor of fallen walls suggests not just the traumatized city, but fallen subject, but also represent survival.

A life lived in a warzones allowed H.D. to make real life connections and she often related the war torn home to the end of days in the Bible. Graham acknowledges that although Trilogy contains stable language and perspective, the actual structure of the poem is not intensely structured, making the control simply an illusion, but allowing the reader feel the chaos of war. This is important because of control H.D. cannot exercise over the war, or her feelings about it. She also uses strong language of the body, such as the physical body, body as a city/place, or body of knowledge. H.D.’s important control over her poetics of war allowed her to exercise power over the one thing she could control, which was poetry. Although H.D. was never cured of her war shock, her poetry allowed insight into her horrified world.


Graham, Sarah. “Falling Walls: Trauma and Testimony in H.D.’s Trilogy.” The Journal of the English Association., 2007. 299-319. Ebscohost. Web. 28 Feb. 2013.

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!



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