For some reason, the first half dozen poems I encountered by Hilda Doolittle (1886-1961) were all about pears, ancient Greece, or both. She was definitely someone who could get fixed on an idea. In fact, she became so paranoid when Hitler came into power that she ended up being one of Freud’s early patients. (I’m sure Dr. Freud had something to say about those pears.) Seems she thought another world war might ensue. I guess being right doesn’t disqualify a person from being neurotic.
For much of her early career, Doolittle signed her poems H.D. Imagiste, the name Ezra Pound bestowed on her. The earlier you go with her poems, the more closely she toes the imagist line–spare poems dominated by evocative images. Her poems in later years branched out a little, often into classical themes and romanticism, but always hanging onto modern forms of expression.
Her personal life was messy. She and her lover, a female novelist, traveled around Europe sharing male lovers. This is the kind of woman who named her kid “Perdita”(which means “lost one”). Yikes. I’m not sure why she’s still better known by her initials than her name, other than the obvious. (Who’d want to be stuck with a name like Hilda Doolittle?) Maybe it was better for one’s career not to be too obvious about being female.
Here’s a link to The Islands. No pears in this one. http://www.bartleby.com/273/48.html
My following poem:
Cretan Snake Goddess
So many times
we’ve packed and unpacked this goddess,
since before it was my job to do so.
So many times, in fact,
that the styrofoam molded to her body,
meant to keep her safe and motionless
has become an ancient, crumbling ruin.
What is it about her,
that no one wants to take her home?
Thousands of hands have fondled
her two perfect breasts,
her two perfect snakes,
her two eyes fixed in a Minoan stare
under a perfect mask of eyeliner.
Though her price has fallen many times,
she herself remains high on her shelf.
Nobody wants this goddess.
I guess she’s mine.