“I found [H.D.’s poetry] totally, totally intoxicating” (3)

(3rd in a series of posts on H.D.)

“H.D.’s poetry said to me that we could bring patriarchal dominance to an end,
it was a poetry that insisted that we could bring war to an end.”
Seth Moglen

Finding H.D.: A Community Exploration of the Life and Work of Hilda Doolittle

The next event is “H.D.’s Moravian Roots in Bethlehem” by Moravian’s Craig Atwood, February 26, 6:30-8 at the Bethlehem Area Public Library.

Here is the third slice of Prof Seth Moglen’s January 30 “How I Fell in Love with H.D.” lecture at the BAPL in the FINDING H.D. series.

Seth recounts his personal discovery of H.D. in college as a 19-yr.-old in 1983, how her work speaks to perpetual cycles of intergender and international war, and how she has influenced his own scholarly work.

You need to hear Seth’s personal account in his own words, but here’s a taste of what you will find:

“I picked up this book Trilogy, and I started to read it, and it was like doing drugs, I just couldn’t believe it, that a human being had written this. The musicality of the verse was so immediately powerful.”

“This feeling of the bottom opening up and this . . . sense of both a beauty and a mysteriousness about the poetry that I found totally, totally intoxicating.”

“H.D. felt that she had to get to the heart of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament and Greek mythology and the Roman mythological tradition in order to explain how it could 030be that these extraordinarily gifted women that she had grown up with had been deprived of the opportunity to lead the full lives of the kind that her male relatives had.”

“H.D. is deeply concerned with misogyny . . . which is to say male fear and aggression towards women. H.D. was convinced that you could stop this, that it could be confronted, and overcome.”

“What is it in men that produced this fear, and how might we create a culture in which men could change.”

“H.D. was worried about war and absolutely committed that the scourge of modern warfare, this endless cycle of one war leading to another and the next was rooted in these painful fantasies of dominance.”

“H.D.’s poetry said to me that we could bring patriarchal dominance to an end, it was a poetry that insisted that we could bring war to an end.”

“I didn’t want to risk my life in Grenada, and like a lot of men of my generation, I was genuinely alarmed about this, and I was trying to understand why this was happening. And there was nothing that I read that year in college that seemed to me to have more to say about this question of why generation after generation we were engaged in futile war.”

“One of the things that literature could do was alter how we feel and think about the world in ways that might enable us to be less actively engaged in the perpetuation of violence.”

“H.D. herself was trying to figure out . . . how the Bethlehem Steel plant which was producing the munitions for global warfare, how that had grown out of a pacifist communitarianism.”

Next time we’ll talk about some specific poems.

Remember: the next event in the year-long series is “H.D.’s Moravian Roots in Bethlehem” by Moravian’s Craig Atwood, February 26, 6:30-8 at the Bethlehem Area Public Library.

Gadfly will remind you.

Lecture photo by Jennie Gilrain.

“H.D.’s roots go deep, deep, deep into the city” (2)

(2nd in a series of posts on H.D.)

“Of course, I do, I was born in Bethlehem.”
[H.D.’s answer to Freud, who was afraid she was becoming psychotic
because she believed she was the founder of a new religion]

Finding H.D.: A Community Exploration of the Life and Work of Hilda Doolittle

The next event is “H.D.’s Moravian Roots in Bethlehem” by Moravian’s Craig Atwood, February 26, 6:30-8 at the Bethlehem Area Public Library

Gadfly says let’s go a little deeper in our year-long community quest to find H.D., the Lehigh Valley’s most important literary figure.

Here’s another slice of Prof Seth Moglen’s January 30 lecture in the FINDING H.D. series, a brief overview summary of H.D.’s life and work (15 mins):

Some memorable Seth sound bites:

“Every major institution in the city of Bethlehem was something in which her family was involved.”

“The city exercised such a profound hold on her mind that in every phase of her career she wrote often quite obsessively in her journals and notebooks about the city of 029Bethlehem, and much of her most important work comes back to the city in a very, very deep way.”

“She was convinced that the mystery and the paradox posed by the city of Bethlehem could enable her to explain what seemed to be the unfolding catastrophe of the 20th century.”

“Almost the whole of H.D.’s corpus is animated by an intense feminist commitment to the empowerment of women and to women claiming their voices in patriarchal culture which over centuries and millennia had silenced women.”

Key points from Seth’s talk:

  • Born in Bethlehem 1886, died in Zurich 1961
  • City Hall built on the site of her family home
  • Her family part of the Moravian community from the 1740s
  • Her father and mother were leaders in the contemporary Moravian community
  • Her uncle was founder of the Bach Choir
  • Her father first professor of Astronomy at LehighHD Nisky
  • Her uncle at the beginning of what would become Bethlehem Steel
  • Left Bethlehem just shy of age 11
  • Moved to Upper Darby
  • Attends Bryn Mawr briefly
  • To Europe at age 25, thenceforth an expatriate
  • Leads an adventurous, bohemian life
  • Married to poet Richard Aldington
  • Lived unapologetic bisexual life
  • Long-time companion, a woman, Bryher
  • Extraordinarily prolific writer, first published volume 1916
  • The Gift largely about her childhood in Bethlehem
  • Love affair and intense relationship with poet Ezra Pound
  • Was actress, pioneer of film studies
  • poetry is associated with Imagism
  • Compressed, highly musical poetry
  • Learned in Greek and Roman mythology
  • Interested in mystical tradition
  • 1st woman awarded the medal of American Arts and Letters, 1961
  • Buried in Nisky Hill, the grave usually covered with shells
  • Influence on such poets as Adrienne Rich, Denise Levertov
  • Denied honorary degree at Lehigh in 60s, awarded 2014

Remember: the next event in the year-long series is “H.D.’s Moravian Roots in Bethlehem” by Moravian’s Craig Atwood, February 26, 6:30-8 at the Bethlehem Area Public Library.

Gadfly will remind you.

Lecture photo by Jennie Gilrain, grave photo by Mark McKenna, courtesy of Jennie.

Bethlehem’s H.D.: the Lehigh Valley’s most important literary figure (1)

(1st in a series of posts on H.D.)

“FINDING H.D. is a community exploration of our greatest literary native daughter.”

“H.D. is the most profound interpreter of the meaning of Bethlehem that we have yet had.”

Seth Moglen

One of the warmest places in our town for fifty or so lovers of literature on a brutal bitter Wednesday night was the 2nd floor meeting room in the library, where Prof. Seth Moglen of Lehigh’s English Department led a “community exploration” to find H.D.

Hilda Doolittle (1886-1961), known as H.D., was a Bethlehem native whose “innovative and experimental poetry and prose established her as a leading Modernist artist and pioneering voice in feminism in the 1910s and 1920s.” City Hall was built on the site of her family home, she’s buried in Nisky Hill, and Lehigh gave her an honorary degree in 2015. She was added to the Literary Landmarks register in 2017, and there’s a plaque at the library.

hildadoolittleh.d.

FINDING H.D. A Community Exploration of the Life and Work of Hilda Doolittle” — a partnership between the Lehigh University English Department, the Bethlehem Area Public Library, Mock Turtle Marionette Theater, and Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center — is a 12-month-long community exploration of the life and work of H.D., culminating in the premiere of a new play by Mock Turtle Marionette Theatre in October of 2019 at Touchstone Theatre.

Jodi Duckett, “’Finding H.D.,’ a year-long exploration of the life of feminist poet Hilda Doolittle, kicks off in Bethlehem.” Morning Call, November 9, 2018.

Linda Doell, “Hilda ‘H.D.’ Doolittle: Exploring a Bethlehem-born poet and a community.” Morning Call, January 25, 2019.

Moglen’s warmly intimate remarks entitled “How I Fell in Love with H.D. (And Why You Should Too)” was the second in a series of about a dozen events centered on “the Lehigh Valley’s most important literary figure” starting last November and extending into next October.

The full calendar of this “Year of H.D” can be found in the FINDING H.D. brochure linked here.

The next event is “H.D.’s Moravian Roots in Bethlehem” by Moravian’s Craig Atwood, February 26, 6:30-8 at the library.

Logistics done for now. Let’s begin to think why we should “find” H.D.

Gadfly is ashamed. Not only has he not covered “the Arts,” but he must candidly admit to knowing virtually nothing about H.D. Gadfly bets most of his followers would say the same. “Who is this remarkable woman whom most of us have never heard of?” says Moglen.

Well, Gadfly learned a lot about H.D. last night, things he will share over the next several posts about her. For starter was Gadfly’s surprise that the work of this woman who left town while quite young, who traveled the world, who spent virtually all of her adult life outside the United States, who moved in the highest literary circles of her day always had Bethlehem on her mind. She wasn’t just born here; she was shaped here.

FINDING H.D. is a community exploration of our greatest literary native daughter, and FINDING H.D. is posing the kind of question that I wish people all over the United States were posing, which is to say, not just how can we learn about an important writer but how by engaging with art do we learn who we are, how do we learn about ourselves by encountering writers and artists who have shaped and transformed us. Every time we encounter a work of art you encounter partly some aspect of yourself which resonates with that work. And to be part of a community engaged in a systematic endeavor saying what does it mean that this writer who transformed literature in English grew up, was a child, and was raised in this place, and thought about Bethlehem all her life. What does that mean to talk about the poet she became, and what does that mean about the city she bequeathed to us.

And she wasn’t just born here and shaped here, but she can tell us about ourselves: “H.D. is the most profound interpreter of the meaning of Bethlehem that we have yet had.”

Now that’s intriguing!

In my view, H.D. matters to the city of Bethlehem not only because she was born here. But the body of poetry and fiction and memoirs that she created would have been unthinkable had she not grown up in this place and had her family not had such deep roots here. But in my view, H.D. is the most profound interpreter of the meaning of Bethlehem that we have yet had. The body of work that H.D. produced about the city of Bethlehem, about the meaning and evolution of the city over the 150 years before her childhood is an extraordinary body of work

So mark your calendars for the February 26 “Moravian Roots” lecture.

Gadfly will remind you.

And Gadfly will present more of Moglen’s remarks in upcoming posts.

A tip o’ the hat and a wave o’ the wings to event organizers Doug Roysdon, Jennie Gilrain, Seth Moglen, Mary Foltz, Josh Berk, Liz Bradbury, and others I don’t know – and to BAPL’s Matt for coordinating the local arrangements.