In the garden with H. D. (19)

(19th in a series of posts on H.D.)

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

Bethlehem-born writer Hilda Doolittle — H. D. —  (1886-1961) is
the “Lehigh Valley’s most important literary figure.”

—–

014rhododendron,
Rhodocleia,
we are unworthy of your beauty,
you are near beauty the sun,
you are that Lord become woman

rhododendron,
O strong tree
sway and bend
and speak to me;
utter words
that I may
take
wax
and cut upon my tablets
words to make men pause
and cry

 

012

 

Rhododendron,
O wild-wood,
let no serpent
with drawn hood,
enter,
know the world we know

 

 

013

 

 

 

rhododendron,
swear to me,
by his mountain,
by his stream,
none shall mar
the Pythian dream

 

 

 

 

 

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

photos by Jennie Gilrain

H. D. workshop at William Allen (18)

(18th in a series of posts on H.D.)

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

Bethlehem-born writer Hilda Doolittle — H. D. —  (1886-1961) is
the “Lehigh Valley’s most important literary figure.”

Gadfly:

I wanted to let you know about one of the exciting developments or off-shoots of our Finding H.D. community exploration. Amanda Riggle, English teacher at William Allen High School contacted me to see if we could do a “Finding H.D.” workshop at her school. I asked two of our actor-devisers (who are working with Doug and me on the new H.D. play) if they would be interested in running an H.D. theater workshop at Allen High School. Attached below is Amanda’s description of the workshop that Will Reichard-Flynn and Aidan Gilrain-McKenna ran at Allen High School this month [May].

Jenni Gilrain

H.D. Workshop at William Allen High School

            Lehigh Valley residents Will Reichard-Flynn and Aidan Gilrain-McKenna, conducted a workshop on Thursday, May 2, 2019, at William Allen High School, using poetry by H.D. (Hilda Doolittle), a Bethlehem native whose innovative and experimental poetry and prose established her as a leading Idealist/Modernist. H.D. is widely recognized today as a queer, feminist visionary from the early twentieth century.  Approximately 40 students from grade 9-12 attended the hour and a half workshop, which was organized by English teacher, Mrs. Amanda Riggle, and science teacher, Ms. Rachel Zane.

Students sat in a circle and introduced themselves by name and by the pronouns they prefer to use when referencing themselves, such as he/him, she/her, and they/them.  HD 7This introduction allowed them to see that not all people use the pronouns assigned to them at birth. After reading of “Sheltered Garden” by H.D., the students discussed some of the stanzas that stood out to them, including images of breaking free and nature.

However, the real connection to the writing began when they began using the movement to express the spoken word. Although some were a bit timid at first, many students gotHD 5 into the theatre exercises of portraying meaning using movement and shape to add to their synthesis of the text.

The final activity placed students into random groups, using excerpts of previously unread H.D. poetry. The objective was to have each group member participate in creating movement and shape in connection with the meaning of the lines from the poem’s excerpt. All the groups created original interpretations and seemed to enjoy the experience.

Overall, the workshop was a success, even with the initial hesitation of the students. This opportunity to see different topics of feminism, identity, and gender gave all the students insight into their own identities; some surprisingly gained the self-confidence to discuss and participate, while others held back, their self-esteem lacking in front of their peers. This workshop truly separated the leaders and followers, which was wonderful to experience as educators; this was a time for students to express who they truly are when faced with adversity. Some blossomed, while others felt shy, but the experience will hopefully resonate with all of them; these types of conversations are beneficial as they continue to educate long after they are over. These experiences of facing our own understanding will help break down barriers of discrimination, prejudice, and ignorance in the future.

Amanda Riggle

Arrangements could not be made for the H. D. film on the “Finding H. D.” program, although the organizers are hoping for a showing later in the year. There will be some slight tinkering with dates for the showing of the original play in process, but otherwise the series continues as planned.

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

Bethlehem-born poet H. D. capturing a “fresh active, moment in time” (17)

(17th in a series of posts on H.D.)

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

You thought I forgot about our year-long discovery of H.D., didn’t you?

We continue to learn about this Bethlehem-born writer (1886-1961), the “Lehigh Valley’s most important literary figure,” as the plaque at the entrance announces to our library patrons. Poetry mag

Listen to this rollicking 10 minutes from the April 29 talk by the delightful Liz Bradbury for a powerful understanding of what made H. D. and Imagism, the poetic movement she was associated with and helped define, so special.

Liz contrasts H. D.’s poetry with that of Agatha Christie, Richard Aldington, and Ezra Pound with specific regard to a principle that poetry should capture a “fresh active, moment in time.”

(Aldington, Pound, and H. D. are thought of as the founders of Imagism.)

Liz will make you laugh. She reads with gusto. You can’t miss how different H. D. is!

Linger on Liz’s charged readings of these poems.

Storm

You crash over the trees,
you crack the live branch,
the branch is white,
the green crushed,
each leaf is rent like split wood.

You burden the trees
with black drops,
you swirl and crash,
you have broken off a weighted leaf
in the wind,
it is hurled out,
whirls up and sinks,
a green stone.

Oread

Whirl up, sea—
whirl your pointed pines,
splash your great pines
on our rocks,
hurl your green over us,
cover us with your pools of fir.

Heat

O wind, rend open the heat,
cut apart the heat,
rend it to tatters.

Fruit cannot drop
through this thick air–
fruit cannot fall into heat
that presses up and blunts
the points of pears
and rounds the grapes.

Cut the heat–
plough through it,
turning it on either side
of your path.

Time-out for an H. D. (16)

(16th in a series of posts on H.D.)

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

The next event in this year-long series is a lecture by Liz Bradbury,
H.D. and Emily Dickinson: Bisexual Women Poets Who Made History,”
Monday, April 29, 6-8pm, Bradbury-Sullivan, LGBT Community Center,
522 West Maple Street, Allentown
(the location may be hard to find, so figuring a bit of extra travel time is good)

Nature retracts as evening creeps

Evening

The light passes
From ridge to ridge,
From flower to flower—
The hepaticas, wide-spread
Under the light
Grow faint—
The petals reach inward,
The blue tips bend
Toward the bluer heart
And the flowers are lost.

The cornel-buds are still white,
But shadows dart
From the cornel-roots—
Black creeps from root to root,
Each leaf
Cuts another leaf on the grass,
Shadow seeks shadow,
Then both leaf
and leaf-shadow are lost.

 

Marilyn Hazleton called this poem to our attention during the last event in the series, “H. D. and the Natural World.” Thanks, Marilyn!

 

Remember:

The next event in this year-long series is a lecture by Liz Bradbury,
H.D. and Emily Dickinson: Bisexual Women Poets Who Made History,”
Monday, April 29, 6-8pm, Bradbury-Sullivan, LGBT Community Center,
522 West Maple Street, Allentown

H. D. portrait at the library (15)

(15th in a series of posts on H.D.)

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

The next event in this year-long series is a panel discussion on “H.D. and the Natural World,” tomorrow night, Tuesday, April 16, 6:30-8:00pm
at the Bethlehem Area Public Library.

Speaking of the library, BAPL is trying to raise $3500 for a portrait of H.D. to hang there.

Only $515 raised so far.

Can you help?

https://www.bapl.org/hd/

001

H. D.: “beauty without strength, chokes out life” (14)

(14th in a series of posts on H.D.)

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

The next event in this year-long series is a panel discussion on “H.D. and the Natural World,” Tuesday, April 16, 6:30-8:00pm at the Bethlehem Area Public Library.

Sheltered Garden

I have had enough.
I gasp for breath.

Every way ends, every road,
every foot-path leads at last
to the hill-crest—
then you retrace your steps,
or find the same slope on the other side,
precipitate.

 I have had enough—
border-pinks, clove-pinks, wax-lilies,
herbs, sweet-cress.

O for some sharp swish of a branch—
there is no scent of resin
in this place,
no taste of bark, of coarse weeds,
aromatic, astringent—
only border on border of scented pinks.

 Have you seen fruit under cover
that wanted light—
pears wadded in cloth,
protected from the frost,
melons, almost ripe,
smothered in straw?

 Why not let the pears cling
to the empty branch?
All your coaxing will only make
a bitter fruit—
let them cling, ripen of themselves,
test their own worth,
nipped, shrivelled by the frost,
to fall at last but fair
with a russet coat.

Or the melon—
let it bleach yellow
in the winter light,
even tart to the taste—
it is better to taste of frost—
the exquisite frost—
than of wadding and of dead grass.

For this beauty,
beauty without strength,
chokes out life.
I want wind to break,
scatter these pink-stalks,
snap off their spiced heads,
fling them about with dead leaves—
spread the paths with twigs,
limbs broken off,
trail great pine branches,
hurled from some far wood
right across the melon-patch,
break pear and quince—
leave half-trees, torn, twisted
but showing the fight was valiant.

O to blot out this garden
to forget, to find a new beauty
in some terrible
wind-tortured place.

A revolt against the traditional image of femininity.” Sirma Soran Gumpert

“H. D.’s polemic against the wadding that, in the name of protecting (particularly) women from life, chokes life out of them.” Adalaide Kirby Morris

“The need for fearlessness. . . . a courage that fears stagnation and suffocation more than failure itself.”  Maria Stadter Fox

“The poem promotes a renewal of the concept of beauty; beauty ‘without
strength’, she writes, ‘chokes out life’.” Elizabeth O’Connor

The next event in this year-long series is a panel discussion on “H.D. and the Natural World,” Tuesday, April 16, 6:30-8:00pm at the Bethlehem Area Public Library.

Be there!

Bethlehem’s H.D.: an artistic vision that counters the dismissal of women as spiritual leaders (13)

Take the “Connecting Bethlehem” survey

(13th in a series of posts on H.D.)

We continue to learn about this Bethlehem-born writer (1886-1961), the “Lehigh Valley’s most important literary figure,” as the plaque at the entrance announces to our library patrons.

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

The next event in this year-long series is a panel discussion on “H.D. and the Natural World,” Tuesday, April 16, 6:30-8:00pm at the Bethlehem Area Public Library.

We’ve done three posts on Prof. Mary Foltz’s lecture on “Challenging Limited Understandings of Gender and Sexuality” on March 6, and now we’re ready to look at a fourth slice. Here’s the full audio of this fourth section and below are selected sound bites from Mary’s prepared text.

Listening to Mary undeniably best; you know that Gadfly always says go to the primary source.

Remember that in the previous post, Mary focused on the formative awareness the young H.D. had in Nisky Hill cemetery as described in The Gift: “when the young Hilda seemingly only finds the names of women preserved on gravestones, she is gesturing to the absence of familial, cultural, and national recognition of women’s value.”

Now think along with Mary and the audience after you read the following passages and ask yourself: 1) How is women’s labor described in these two passages? 2) How is the father’s labor described? 3) How do you understand the separate spheres for men and women in the family and larger community?

H.D. 7
“Women’s labor in Hilda’s home is child-rearing, creating activities for the children (art projects, etc.), sweeping and other forms of cleaning, and caring for the larger family. Mary 1Working class white women here belong to a house, they are tied in servitude to pleasing affluent white men, women and children. Her father belongs to the world and his work matters to the world as journalists, students, and other researchers value his contributions. The young Hilda here, despite her youthful ambition to be an artist, does not have in The Gift examples of women from her family who have succeeded in the outside world or whose work has been valued beyond their labor to support husbands and children. Of course, Hilda, this young queer child, has ambition in The Gift beyond becoming a wife alone and in particular is invested in becoming an artist.”

But women artists are mocked too, not only in society at large but within her own family. Look at the devastating effect her father’s perhaps unwitting denigration of her mother’s singing has on the mother as well as the young H.D., for whom her mother is model. This incident cuts Gadfly deeply.

Min. 5:25 ff.

H.D. 11

Min. 7:55

“Toward the end of The Gift, H.D. commits herself to offering an artistic vision that counters the dismissal of women as artists and thinkers, but also as spiritual leaders, Mary 2providing insight into how communities might fight against sexism, racism, and violence in the world. The closing of the text allows her to recall a message from her Mamalie when she was a child and Mamalie began to lose her grasp on the present in her old age. Mamalie drifts back to a time when she learned about “papers” or deerskin document that told of rituals on wound island in Monocacy creek, during the time in which women were valued as spiritual leaders, when Christ was seen as feminine and masculine, when the holy spirit is understood as feminine. H.D. gives us these memories of Mamalie’s story and glimpses of what occurred on wound island before the sifting time in fits and starts and it never becomes fully clear to the reader what the exact rituals on Wound Island might be.”

H.D. 9

“What is clear is that the rituals involve women in leadership roles, a sharing of indigenous religious belief and Moravian religious belief, and the understanding of sacred femininity as part of the divine. Here, H.D. reminds readers of the massacre of Mary 3Lenni Lenape indigenous people who share pacifist religious beliefs with Moravian missionaries that they encountered. Nearly 100 Lenape were murdered by a white militia led by Lt. Colonel David Williamson in retaliation for raids in PA, in which the group of Lenni Lenape had not participated. Mamalie and H.D. here contrast this horrendous massacre with the ritual at Wound Island where indigenous and white people honor their religious traditions together, where domination of one group of men over another is not sought, but challenged, where domination of women by men is not seen as natural but challenged by divine spirit. As white masculinity in her childhood community is believed to be superior and is supported by exploiting women’s labor and by the removal and domination of indigenous populations, H.D. takes readers back to a time in Bethlehem when religious ritual actively fought against such forms of domination.”

Min. 14:45

H.D. 10

“Sexism, racism, and homophobia are part of this problem of violence as specific groups of men write their superiority across the sky with powerful bombs, pounding their Mary 4power and strength into the ground, onto the bodies, of those that they see as disposable, as waste. But at Wound Island, where men can let go of a masculinity that erects itself in its divine difference from simple woman, where European immigrant men can let go of their need to dismiss their spiritual insights of groups different from them, where men can contemplate exploring their own femininity, their own vulnerability, their love for other men, H.D. places her hope. In Bethlehem’s past, there was a place on an island where the fantasy of superiority was seen as sin, and the divine feminine and masculine merged, when women were valued as equal as men, when indigenous and European came together to share their beliefs and to delight in the sacred value of each body.”

Now pause for a moment. Tug at the edges of your hat with both hands. Tighten your belt. Hike your socks. Mary ends in a breath-taking rhetorical gallop.

“It will be the work of lesbian, gender non-conforming, and bisexual women at the end of The Gift to reach into the historical archive to show the value of sacred foremothers. It Mary 5will be the work of lesbian, gender non-conforming, bisexual and feminist women to create works of art that provide beehives of words that readers can visit, in which we can live as we build communities in which diverse women can thrive. It will be the work of all of us in all our many genders, sexualities, to engage with the language that devalues others and celebrates the few, structures that benefit the few while exploiting the many. We, too, are asked to create new narratives and structures that might challenge violence in the world, as we attempt to address  sexism, racism, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, in our communities.”

Trumpet flourish!

Remember: the next event in this year-long series is a panel discussion on “H.D. and the Natural World,” Tuesday, April 16, 6:30-8:00pm at the Bethlehem Area Public Library.

Take the “Connecting Bethlehem” survey

 

H.D.: her life’s work begins at Nisky Hill (12)

(12th in a series of posts on H.D.)

We continue to learn about this Bethlehem-born writer (1886-1961), the “Lehigh Valley’s most important literary figure,” as the plaque at the entrance announces to our library patrons.

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

The next event in this year-long series is a panel discussion on “H.D. and the Natural World,” Tuesday, April 16, 6:30-8:00pm at the Bethlehem Area Public Library.

We’ve done two posts on Prof. Mary Foltz’s lecture on “Challenging Limited Understandings of Gender and Sexuality” on March 6, and now we’re ready to look at a third slice as Mary moves into H.D.’s autobiographical narrative The Gift, which “opens with a discussion of H.D.’s childhood in Bethlehem.”

So, “autobiography,” and you’re thinking and expecting (yawn) to see some form of “I was born . . . .” No, The Gift begins in Nisky Hill Cemetery with a childhood incident involving H.D.’s mother, grandmother (Mamalie) and four dead females: Edith (her sister), Martha (her father’s first wife), Alice (daughter of her father with Martha), and Fanny (sister of Martha). Read on and/or listen to an audience member reading this passage on the link above.

H.D. 6

What lines jump out at you? How about H.D.’s questions “But why is it funny? [that Fanny died],” and “Why was it always a girl who had died?”

Hmm, H.D. begins an autobiography with dead girls and women. At graves we can literally easily visit.

And with questions that haunt.

So — and here’s a good example of her own “Wow!” questions — Mary asks, “Why does [H.D.] open an autobiographical text with dead women? What is the significance of this artistic choice?”

The answer is powerful:

  • “The loss of a girl is of no great consequence to the world for she only might matter to the family. In other words, the kind of labor that a girl, the kind of gifts that she might give to the world, is of no consequence as women’s labor is devalued and their ‘gifts’—intellectual, artistic, scientific, etc.—are assumed to be nonexistent.”
  • “Hilda is forced to encounter in the Nisky graveyard the names of women that will not be in the histories of Bethlehem, that few grieve, and that others avoid so as not to confront how institutionalized sexism devalues women.”
  • “The lives of white men will be celebrated as they work at the Steel, as they work at the University, as they contribute to the world with the labor, but the lives of women will be recorded on gravestones.”
  • “In a whimsical way, Hilda is pointing out here through a girl child’s view of the world that the primary place where women are marked in public spaces is in their deaths, on their gravestones.”
  • “She seems to say we celebrate men’s lives and just mark women’s deaths.”
  • “Her gift . . . is to feel sorrow for the lost women and girls, to grieve their deaths, and to grieve for the ways that they are not valued fully in their communities both during the lives and in their resting places.”

Mary reminds us that “H.D. was born into a world where women were understood as naturally inferior.” For the first thirty years of her life women could not vote and rarely held leadership positions. She was also “born into a [Moravian] religious community that despite its history of valuing women in leadership roles and viewing equality among all people succumbed to dominant forms of sexism after the death of Zinzendorf in 1760.”

“Part of the gift that [H.D.] gets from her mother is her ability to grieve for girls.”

“She can mourn for those that others are laughing at.”  H.D. young 1

“She’s connected to the dead; she has a responsibility to the dead.”

“She’s crying inside for a culture that says women are not valuable.”

So, what does beginning with memory of an incident involving a dead girl that was a laughing matter mean to H.D. as she begins to think about the significance of her life?

“Her life’s work is this quest . . . to create narratives that might help us think differently about the sacredness . . . of gender non-conforming people.”

“When the young Hilda seemingly only finds the names of women preserved on gravestones, she is gesturing to the absence of familial, cultural, and national recognition of women’s value.”

There ought to be a Wow! in you somewhere for the young H.D.’s germinating moment in Nisky Hill.

Remember: the next event in this year-long series is a panel discussion on “H.D. and the Natural World,” Tuesday, April 16, 6:30-8:00pm at the Bethlehem Area Public Library.

H.D.: “If she went away [from Pennsylvania] her spirit would break; if she stayed, she would be suffocated” (11)

(11th in a series of posts on H.D.)

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

The next event in this year-long series is a panel discussion on “H.D. and the Natural World,” Tuesday, April 16, 6:30-8:00pm at the Bethlehem Area Public Library.

Gadfly is following this wonderful program on Bethlehem-born world-renown author H.D. (1866-1961), the Lehigh Valley’s most important literary figure – who most of us, Gadfly included, know very little about.

Here again is the full recording of Prof. Mary Foltz’s lecture on “Challenging Limited Understandings of Gender and Sexuality” on March 6.

After the intro by Jennie Gilrain, Mary introduces the overarching questions we should think about during her talk (min. 2:30), introduces H.D.’s The Gift (min. 5:01), discusses and interacts with the audience about two poems by Rosa Lane for context (min. 8:04 and min. 20:54), and concludes this context by showing how the Lane poems set up four themes that characterize H.D.’s work (min. 30:25). Mary turns to The Gift for the main focus of her talk (min. 32.18) and the Q ‘n A follows (min. 1:14:50).

So now let’s think about the second slice of Mary’s lecture.

Gadfly is straight.

How can he know what’s it’s like to be . . . not straight?

How can he know what it feels like to be lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, queer?

Literature is a way of knowing.

Mary tells us that H.D., the Lehigh Valley’s most important literary figure, is a bisexual feminist poet.

How can Gadfly understand H.D. and her criticism of the damages of sexism and patriarchy?

Mary fosters that understanding of people like me who “will not know the pain of encountering others’ hatred as you express femininity or masculinity because you’ve been assigned a sex at birth that does not match your gender” through a discussion of two short poems by lesbian poet Rosa Lane.

Poetry must be heard.

Gadfly encourages you to read the Lane poems printed below along with listening to them read by members of Mary’s audience — people just like you.

H.D. 3

Read them. And think about them for a couple minutes. Then listen to Mary and her audience talk about them.

Rosa Lane, “Tomboy’s Toggle to Love”

Rosa Lane, “Boats Named Women”

Rosa Lane 2

Mary took the poems individually, got the audience talking about them, and then pulled things together in her words.

Gadfly would love to think you have the time to listen to the segments on each poem – but you must, YOU MUST listen to at least one!

So here are audio clips of the full segments on each poem with some teasers from Mary’s wrap-ups.

1) “Tomboy’s Toggle to Love”

“The child expressing lesbian desire in this poem, the longing to share love for another woman, feels like an alien in her own home. . . . What she is looking for is a community, a tribe, of others that can affirm her desire as beautiful and valuable. She sends a message in a bottle, but hears nothing back from the world, nothing washes ashore, that indicates she is not alone in her difference. . . . the desire for another woman is not something that she feels could be erased, her course is set from childhood to be lost to her community and family because of her difference.”

2) “Boats Named Women”

“This poem addresses how women are the vessels that support men in their journeys through the world in this fishing community. Women’s bodies. . . . are gutted hulls, not subjects in their own right, but bodies devoted to pleasuring men. . . . sexual intimacy here is described as the mother chopping off a part of herself to give to her partner.”

Mary then finishes her introduction to H.D. by setting out four themes that characterize H.D.’s work.

  • institutionalized sexism limits possibilities for white women
  • normative heterosexuality defines women’s sexuality as being objects of desire for men rather than subjects of desire
  • documenting the desire to surpass limited understanding of what women’s bodies are for
  • imagining and enacting alternatives to gender norms for women

H.D. 5H.D., Mary tells us, felt suffocated in Bethlehem and Philadelphia even as she loved her family and community.

“If she went away her spirit would break,” H.D. wrote of herself, “if she stayed, she would be suffocated.”

That tension tears Gadfly up.

Another slice of Mary’s lecture to think about coming in our next post. Moving there into a discussion of H.D.’s work itself.


Remember: the next event in this year-long series is a panel discussion on “H.D. and the Natural World,” Tuesday, April 16, 6:30-8:00pm at the Bethlehem Area Public Library.

H.D.: “the challenge to create new narratives” (10)

(10th in a series of posts on H.D.)

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

The next event in this year-long series is a panel discussion on “H.D. and the Natural World,” Tuesday, April 16, 6:30-8:00pm at the Bethlehem Area Public Library.

Gadfly is following this wonderful program on Bethlehem-born world-renown author H.D. (1866-1961), the Lehigh Valley’s most important literary figure – who most of us, Gadfly included, know very little about.

039

Here is the full recording of Prof. Mary Foltz’s lecture on “Challenging Limited Understandings of Gender and Sexuality” last Wednesday.

After the intro by Jennie Gilrain, Mary introduces the overarching questions we should think about during her talk (min. 2:30), introduces H.D.’s The Gift (min. 5:01), discusses and interacts with the audience about two poems by Rosa Lane for context (min. 8:04 and min. 20:54), and concludes this context by showing how the Lane poems set up four themes that characterize H.D.’s work (min. 30:25). Mary turns to H.D.’s autobiographical narrative The Gift for the main focus of her talk (min. 32.18) and the Q ‘n A follows (min. 1:14:50).

As we’ve done with the lectures by Profs Moglen and Atwood, we’ll ration out Mary’s presentation in blog-worthy-size slices between here and the next event in the series — the panel discussion April 16. But you do have the full event on audio above for immediate reference.

In her intro, Jennie Gilrain spoke of her past experience with Mary’s “Whoa!” and “Wow!” questions. And Mary served us up a heap of ‘em with her first breath of introduction.

Listen (above, the first 5 minutes of the lecture on audio) and look (below).

And do your Whoa! and Wow!

“What does it mean for us here tonight and for our city to rethink the history of our community and the central values of our community through engagement with a bisexual feminist poet? How would placing a woman poet at the center of our civic identity change the historical narratives that we share about Bethlehem and our visions for the future as we imagine the city we want to become? How might H.D.’s criticism of the damages of sexism and patriarchy (societies in which men hold positions of power within and outside of the family) challenge us to see our city—our history and our present-day institutions—with fresh eyes, awake to the legacy of devaluing women’s lives, voices, and contributions and the persistence of sexism? How does this poet’s work call us as readers, as her newest ‘kin’ in the city that she once called home and that haunted her throughout her life, to engage with the hopes and promises of Moravian ancestors that imagined egalitarian communities in which multi-ethnic, multi-racial citizens created a shared economy to support the well-being of all members and valued the intellectual, spiritual, and physical contributions of women and men?”

Prepare to think new.

The new and used editions of H.D.’s The Gift on Amazon are kinda pricey unfortunately, though there is an inexpensive Kindle version, looks like, but even if you can’t follow along in the text, you will learn a lot from Mary’s presentation.

We’ll take up another slice next time.

Remember: the next event in this year-long series is a panel discussion on “H.D. and the Natural World,” Tuesday, April 16, 6:30-8:00pm at the Bethlehem Area Public Library.

H.D.: Wunden Eiland and “Litany of the Wounds”

 (9th in a series of posts on H.D.)

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

The next event in this year-long series is “Challenging Limited Understandings of Gender and Sexuality” by Lehigh University’s Mary Foltz, TONIGHT Wednesday, March 6, 6:30-8 at the Bethlehem Area Public Library.

Wunden Eiland, where the ceremony in H.D.’s vision took place and the controversial and ultimately “sifted” “Litany of the Wounds” are two of the most intriguing elements of the H.D. story told by Prof Atwood.

Let’s linger on them for a moment. Gadfly loves this stuff.

Here is H.D.’s vision:

This, I could remember, letting pictures steadily and stealthily flow past and through me. When the terror was at its height, in the other room, I could let images and pictures flow through me, and I could understand Anna von Pahlen who had been the inspirer of the meetings at Wunden Eiland when the unbaptized King of the Shawanese gave his beloved and only wife to the Brotherhood. I saw it all clearly.  (The Gift, 134)

And there was an actual Wunden Eiland (Island of the Wound), in the Monocacy — gone now — but down behind Brethren’s House on Church St. in the 18th century.

You can see it on this 1766 map. Follow the Monocacy heading down the left side of the map toward the Lehigh River. See Wunden Eiland on the left just after the Monocacy turns right toward the bottom of the map. Tip o’ the hat to Scott Gordon for the reference.

004

Now here’s a taste of the graphic “Litany of the Wounds,” an example of the hidden, sifted liturgy at the original core of the Moravian Church that attracted H.D.  (For the whole thing, see at end of Craig Atwood, “Zinzendorf’s ‘Litany of the Wounds’.”)

wounds 1

wounds 2

wounds 3

Now on to Mary Foltz’s lecture. Tonight! Be there!

Bethlehem Moment 7: H.D. and The Ceremony on Monocacy Creek’s Wunden Eiland

Bethlehem Moment 7
City Council
March 5, 2019

Ed Gallagher 49 W. Greenwich

A Bethlehem Moment: January 17, 1943

On January 17, 1943, Hilda Doolittle (1886-1961), known as H.D., Bethlehem native, whose family home, in fact, was on this very spot, world-famous writer, the Lehigh Valley’s most important literary figure, was living in London when the German Luftwaffe resumed bombing raids after months of inactivity. H.D. had previously endured nearly one hundred straight days of night bombing we now know as The Blitz – a sustained systematic attempt to break the fighting will of England by inflicting abject terror on its civilians. H.D. was then a middle-aged woman “shattered by fear” as the “tidal-wave of terror” swept over her again, ironically, through bombs possibly made before the war by the Bethlehem Steel Corporation. You can imagine what she was thinking. What sense did this brutal war make? Why did she have to go through this bombing again? Hadn’t she endured enough? What madness had gripped her entire world? “I could not visualize civilization other than a Christmas tree that had caught fire,” she felt as the bombs dropped. In this agonized state, H.D. has a vision of a ceremony during the 1740s on Wunden Eiland, the Isle of the Wound, an island in the Monocacy Creek, now gone, down behind the Brethren’s House on Church St. A ceremony of cultural exchange in which the Moravian Anna von Pahlen is initiated into the Native American culture and the Native American Morning Star is baptized Moravian. A ceremony embracing a wisdom that could make “a united brotherhood, a Unitas Fratrum of the whole world” but which the later more conventional Moravians condemned as a scandal and erased from Moravian cultural memory. In H.D.’s vision, though, Anna’s voice is still “pure and silver and clear like a silver trumpet.” The original Moravian possibility of Unitas Fratrum is still there. And H.D.’s subsequent work is marked by the energetic urge to engage and transform world events with a vision of power and peace.

 

H.D., The Gift, New York: New Directions Press, 1982.

H.D. tries to reclaim lost Bethlehem tradition (8)

(8th in a series of posts on H.D.)

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

The next event in this year-long series is “Challenging Limited Understandings of Gender and Sexuality” by Lehigh University’s Mary Foltz, TOMORROW Wednesday, March 6, 6:30-8 at the Bethlehem Area Public Library.

Here again is the full recording of Prof. Craig Atwood’s lecture on “H.D.’s Moravian Roots in Bethlehem” a week ago.

After a general introduction, Lehigh University Seth Moglen’s introduction to Craig’s lecture begins at min. 4:25, Craig’s lecture itself begins at min. 6:27, and the Q ‘n A session begins at min. 1:05:00.

Gadfly’s been reabsorbing Craig’s lecture in handy slices. In this third and last slice (mins. 40-65), Craig connects H.D. with repressed elements of Zinzindorf’s theology (especially interesting the “Litany of the Wounds” and the feminine nature of his theology), and concludes that H.D. “understood the Moravians had repressed what was central to the founding of Bethlehem and tried to reclaim that mystical tradition in her writings” and that the “Moravians failed because they turned away from this radical theology which she hoped to reclaim in her poetry.”

It is startling to Gadfly to learn how central Bethlehem and the Moravians are to H.D.’s work. H.D. is not just an author born in Bethlehem; Bethlehem is in her.

Again, crank up the audio, and listen along!

Here are Gadfly’s “class notes” on mins. 40-65:

  • all of the repulsive imagery of the bleeding side of Christ was for H.D. the prayer that reaches Heaven because it’s the wounded Christ who restores the balance between masculine and feminine
  • “Island of Wounds” the Wunden Eiland, in the Monocacy creek, believed it was shaped like the side wound of Christ
  • Single Brothers would gather there after dark for singing and other rituals
  • in her autobiographical narrative The Gift, England, where she was living in the early 1940s during the war, becomes the Wunden Eiland
  • The Gift ends with sharing a ritual from 200 years earlier: “The Litany of the Wounds”
  • “Litany of the Wounds” is one of the most controversial parts of Moravian devotion
  • for the Bethlehem Moravians, this was one of their most important liturgical elements
  • a Savior did not conquer but suffered and ruled through love
  • The Wounds liturgy was not sifted, not repressed until the 19th century 020
  • Moravian art puts the side wound of Jesus over the heart
  • in H.D.’s time Moravians are removing all this wound language from their hymns
  • possible that her pastors told her this was pathological nonsense
  • she would have heard it as something whispered about in private
  • wounds are multi-valent religious symbol
  • the wound is a portal into the mind of God, was God opening his heart to the people
  • doorway into mystical union with God
  • security, healing, womb/birth canal, vagina in His side
  • Jesus is a man, but a man with a womb
  • H.D. picks up on all of this – Jesus as androgynous figure
  • echoes of bi-sexuality
  • Zinzendorf was interested in mysticism, union with God as sexual act
  • intercourse is re-enactment of union with God, done with spirit of reverence, that is
  • sacred sex important in Bethlehem
  • sex is good even without procreating children
  • sex not shameful, marriage consummation celebrated
  • first sexual experience a blessing
  • all of the above was what was repressed, but H.D. intuitively saw through it
  • view of Holy Spirit, degenderized
  • feminine aspect to their religion
  • was central to Zinzendorf’s theology
  • something missing that H.D. realized
  • Holy Spirit was a Mother, giver of life
  • repression of Holy Spirit as Mother begins
  • H.D. grasped essence of Zinzendorf in unity of masculine and feminine aspects of divinity and humanity
  • she understood the Moravians had repressed what was central to the founding of Bethlehem and tried to reclaim that mystical tradition in her writings
  • Moravians failed because they turned away from this radical theology which she hoped to reclaim in her poetry

The presence of a “Wunden Eiland” in the Monocacy where the Single Brothers “would gather after dark for singing and other rituals” and the stunning physicality of the “litany of the Wounds” cry out for further elaboration. So — shameless tease — look for a post on these things tomorrow.

And tomorrow night, of course, is Mary Foltz’s lecture. New dimensions to H.D. to learn.

Don’t miss!

H.D.’s “sifted” Moravians (7)

(7th in a series of posts on H.D.)

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

The next event in this year-long series is “Challenging Limited Understandings of Gender and Sexuality” by Lehigh University’s Mary Foltz, next Wednesday, March 6, 6:30-8 at the Bethlehem Area Public Library.

Here again is the full recording of Prof. Craig Atwood’s lecture on “H.D.’s Moravian Roots in Bethlehem” last Tuesday.

After a general introduction, Lehigh University Seth Moglen’s introduction to Craig’s lecture begins at min. 4:25, Craig’s lecture itself begins at min. 6:27, and the Q ‘n A session begins at min. 1:05:00.

Gadfly is revisiting Craig’s lecture in slices. In the 2nd slice (approx. mins 20 – 40), Craig reviews Moravian history and brings it up to the point of its influence on H.D.

Gadfly is a bit ashamed to say that he doesn’t know as much about the Moravians as he should. But he bets he is not alone. Some of what Craig covered in this 2nd slice of his lecture, we probably know. But for Gadfly key things are new: a radical religion, a controversial religion, the “Sifting Time” in which controversial elements are suppressed, H.D.’s attraction to those original “bad” elements, an island in the Monocacy named “Wunden Eiland,” a suppressed liturgy called “the Litany of the Wounds.”

Fire up the audio, and listen along!

Here are Gadfly’s “class notes” on mins. 20-40:

  • claims to be the oldest Protestant church — 1457
  • originally named the Brotherhood, Unitas Fratrum, destroyed by religious persecution, kept alive by some in exile
  • resurrected at the time of Zinzendorf, first Protestant church that was not an ethnic church
  • founded Herrnhutt, founded a community
  • missionary thrust
  • one of the most controversial movements of the time
  • the first Protestant missionaries to Africans and Native Americans
  • socially egalitarian, gender inclusive, multi-lingual, multi-racial, multi-cultural
  • answered William Penn’s call of possibility of religious toleration
  • in Bethlehem created the Moravian ideal community: religious commune
  • members taken care of from the womb to the tomb
  • challenged many of the norms of Western society
  • Aristocrats slept alongside of commoners
  • loved art and music
  • one of the most elevated musical cultures in colonial America 017
  • elaborate worship and rituals, candles, singing (crypto-Catholic)
  • H.D. saw all of this
  • settled down into typical Protestant sect by H.D.’s time but had radical heritage
  • period in 1740s called the “Sifting Time,” period of crisis
  • become conservative evangelicals, anti-Zinzendorf
  • destroyed many of the documents of the time
  • what was sifted naturally intrigued H.D.
  • took things normal for Moravians world-wide and make then unacceptable
  • lot of founding vision is buried: Motherhood of the Holy Spirit, the feminine nature of the human souls, the bloody wounds of Christ, etc.
  • H.D. sees echoes in her current Moravian practice lost on others
  • H.D. rejected thinking of others that certain original beliefs were pathological
  • H.D. believed Moravian spirituality symbolized by the lamb was the heart of Moravianism and true religion, the pacifist Lamb who triumphs despite being killed
  • the other great Moravian symbol is the chalice, the sacred cup, a feminine image
  • H.D. felt that Moravians united masculine and feminine aspects of divinity and  humanity and when this was done war would come to an end
  • the war she knew of was toxic masculinity, and it would only be when men and women discovered their masculine and feminine natures together that war would end
  • all of the repulsive imagery of the bleeding side of Christ was for H.D. the prayer that reaches Heaven because it’s the wounded Christ who restores the balance between masculine and feminine
  • “Island of Wounds” the Wunden Eiland, in the Monocacy creek, believed it was shaped like the side wound of Christ
  • Single Brothers would gather there after dark for singing and other rituals
  • in her autobiographical narrative The Gift, England, where she was living in the early 1940s during the war, becomes the Wunden Eiland
  • The Gift ends with sharing a ritual from 200 years earlier: “The Litany of the Wounds”

Craig Atwood’s work on the Moravians and H.D.: “a gift to our city” (6)

(6th in a series of posts on H.D.)

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

The next event in this year-long series is “Challenging Limited Understandings of Gender and Sexuality” by Lehigh University’s Mary Foltz, Wednesday, March 6, 6:30-8 at the Bethlehem Area Public Library.

Here is the full recording of Prof. Craig Atwood’s lecture on “H.D.’s Moravian Roots in Bethlehem” last Tuesday. Gadfly followers know that we always go first to the primary Craig Atwoodsource, so take advantage to refresh yourself if you attended or to listen anew if you didn’t. But below as well over the next post or two, Gadfly will present pieces of Craig’s lecture with some soundbites.

After a general introduction, Lehigh University Seth Moglen’s introduction to Craig’s lecture begins at min. 4:25, Craig’s lecture itself begins at min. 6:27, and the Q ‘n A session begins at min. 1:05:00.

Seth introduced Craig as “one of the foremost scholars of the Moravian Church . . . and especially of the men and women who created this extraordinary community here in Bethlehem . . . author of [the must-read] Community of the Cross. . . . . Craig’s work really matters for this community. We as a city are extraordinarily blessed to have somebody who has devoted decades of patient, careful, precise, fastidious scholarship to the exploration of what really happened at the start of this community . . . a gift to our city.”

Craig:

“How did I first learn about H.D.? Because a classmate in grad school accosted me in the dining room one day, he was a big Ezra Pound fan . . . ‘is it true the Moravians used to worship the bloody side wound of Jesus and wanted to crawl inside the side wound?’ Well, yes. . . . [I was] translating The Litany of the Wounds, one of the more controversial Moravian liturgical pieces.”

Have you ever heard of The Litany of the Wounds? I need to know more!

“What makes [H.D.] so interesting for me is she does leave her home town but she never stops thinking about it, writing about it, and later in her career she focuses quite a bit of research on the Moravians in Bethlehem.”

“Her mother was Helen Wolle, and the Wolle family is one of the most important Moravian families in the history of Bethlehem, especially in the 19th century and especially in Bethlehem’s musical culture. So H.D. was aware of this rich Moravian heritage of music and hymnody, and some of the hymns the Moravians no longer sing, she knew. She participated actively in the rituals of the Central Moravian Church. . . . She had some of her visions and experiences in worship. . . . Her grandmother is one of the major ones communicating this Moravian heritage, which included the Moravian heritage of strong female leaders, strong female missionaries to Native Americans. . . . As far as I can tell, it was her psychoanalysis with Sigmund Freud that led her to re-examine her Moravian background. She was convinced that her gift came from this Moravian heritage.”

Here’s an example of her gift in practice. H.D. has a vision of the Moravian past in one of the final paragraphs of her autobiographical work The Gift, written during and written about living in London during the great bombings of World War II – the Blitz — the first systematic, sustained bombing of civilians in world history. (Listen beginning min. 13:35)

H.D. Renatus

Craig explains:

“Paul [“in a glass darkly”] was referring to our current situation of not being able to see the ultimate reality clearly because our perspective is distorted by our earthly limits. Paul says that one day we will see God face-to-face . . . we do not fully know ourselves until we have this experience. And H.D. is turning that around and says the experience of war and death that she is seeing in London means that her generation was already facing ultimate reality.”

“[H.D.] imagines Christian Renatus [the son of Zinzendorf, who died in London and was buried not far from where she was having this vision] with other Moravian leaders and the Single Brothers in her hometown of Bethlehem on Sand Island, which was called the Isle of Wounds.”

There was an island here called the Isle of Wounds????

“Why would she have this vision of this dead person singing to the wounds of Christ in a place he never visited? Why would a poet . . . be at this time of her life looking to one of the most controversial Christian groups for inspiration? The simple answer is that H.D. became convinced that her own Gnostic religious ideas, her mystical experiences, her poetic gifts, her prophetic gifts were rooted in an esoteric spirituality of Zinzendorf and the Moravians in Bethlehem in the middle of the 18th century. She embraced some of the most controversial aspects of Zinzendorfianism, which the Church in her day had suppressed. But she could hear the echoes of it . . . and always had the feeling the Church was hiding something from her.”

Pretty damned interesting, no?!

Stay tuned for another slice of Craig’s lecture.

Remember: The next event in this year-long series is “Challenging Limited Understandings of Gender and Sexuality” by Lehigh University’s Mary Foltz, Wednesday, March 6, 6:30-8 at the Bethlehem Area Public Library.

Bethlehem’s H.D.: intense feminist commitment (5)

(5th in a series of posts on H.D.)

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

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

In this 5th 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 let’s stick with the poetry.

In this brief excerpt, Seth talks about and reads H.D.’s “Helen” (1924). Yes, that would be “the” Helen, “the face that launched a thousand ships” in the Trojan War.

“Helen”

All Greece hates
the still eyes in the white face,
the lustre as of olives
where she stands,
and the white hands.

All Greece reviles
the wan face when she smiles,
hating it deeper still
when it grows wan and white,
remembering past enchantments
and past ills.

Greece sees, unmoved,
God’s daughter, born of love,
the beauty of cool feet
and slenderest knees,
could love indeed the maid,
only if she were laid,
white ash amid funereal cypresses.

Almost all 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 cultures which over centuries and millennia had silenced women. . . . H.D. was able to understand that male dominance in Western society had been hundreds or thousands of years in the making but could still be transformed. . . . [H.D.’s poetry is ] an effort to think the long history of male dominance and question what it would take to shape or challenge it. (Seth Moglen)

“Helen” takes as its subject the woman who has been the literary and mythic symbol of sexual beauty and illicit love in western culture. Much has been written about her, but H.D. 2H.D.’s poem does something new: it implicitly attacks the traditional imagery of Helen and implies that such perspectives have silenced Helen’s own voice. (Susan Stanford Friedman)

H.D. implies that the beautiful woman is always hated by the culture which pretends to adore her beauty and that the only good beauty, so far as patriarchal culture is concerned, is a dead one. . . .  the poet now announces that Helen of Troy, our culture’s archetypal woman-as-erotic object, was actually a male-generated illusion, a “phantom,” and that “the Greeks and the Trojans alike fought for an illusion.” (Alicia Suskin Ostriker)

H.D. presents the title-character in the poem “Helen” as a suffering madonna victimized by the Greeks. (Thomas Burnett Swann)

[Helen] is seen as a woman who suffers for her beauty and is forced to endure the hostile glances of those who blame her for causing the war between the Greeks and the Trojans. (William Pratt)

This is your promised reminder! The next event in the year-long series is “H.D.’s Moravian Roots in Bethlehem” by Moravian’s Craig Atwood, TOMORROW, Tuesday, February 26, 6:30-8 at the Bethlehem Area Public Library.

“H.D. wrote in a state of more or less constant terror” (4)

(4th in a series of posts on H.D.)

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, Tuesday, February 26, 6:30-8 at the Bethlehem Area Public Library.

Here now is the fourth 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.

Followers of this thread will now know a little bit of H.D.’s life, her relation to Bethlehem, the nature of her poetry, and its personal impact on Moglen, the Gadfly Foundation Visiting Professor of Bethlehem Studies.

But H.D. is a poet – isn’t it time that we read some of her poetry?

Hold on – I know that for some of you poetry may be like garlic to a vampire.

Gadfly confesses that the only “C” in his PhD program was in “Modern Poetry.” That was one long hot summer in South Bend, let me tell you. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was a snap. T.S. Eliot . . . Ezra Pound . . . etal – Oiii.

But let’s listen to Seth wrap meaning and music around two poems from H.D.’s Trilogy volume.

“18 years ago a bunch of men, a small group of men committed a criminal act, high-jacked a plane, 3000 people died. It was a catastrophic moment, and what we did as a society in our fear and our rage was launch two wars which 18 years later we’re still fighting. In those wars almost 7000 US soldiers have now died. 58,000 men and women H.D.have suffered severe life-changing injuries. A soldier, a veteran, kills himself or herself every 65 minutes. H.D. would not have been surprised by any of this. This was the story she was trying to tell in Trilogy. . . . which is to say, why is it in the face of violence our response is to perpetuate the cycle? And what would it involve for us to do something different?”

Trilogy . . . which H.D. wrote . . . in 1944-1945, she was living in London, the bombs were falling night after night after night . . . absolutely systematic civilian bombing. H.D. wrote in a state of more or less constant terror. . . . H.D. knew that the munitions produced in the Bethlehem Steel plant which had been sold at the start of the war to the Germans as well as to the U.S. Army were part of what threatened her life and were inflicting this terror. And she wrote Trilogy as an attempt to respond to this sense of a war that would not end.”

“This [poem #1] is not abstract for H.D. Every single night for 140 consecutive nights German war planes were dropping bombs randomly on civilians in London. And every night H.D. was in fear for her life. . . . Emotionally how do we respond to this experience of terror?  . . . How do you respond to leave your apartment and you go out in the morning and you see that many of your neighbors are dead?”

from H.D.’s “The Flowering of the Rod”

I

O the beautiful garment,
the beautiful raiment —

do not think of His face
or even His hands,

do not think how we will stand
before Him;

remember the snow
on Hermon;

do not look below
where the blue gentian

reflects geometric pattern
in the ice-floe;

do not be beguiled
by the geometry of perfection

for even now,                                         START HERE
the terrible banner

darkens the bridge-head;
we have shown

that we could stand;
we have withstood

the anger, frustration,
bitter fire of destruction;

leave the smoldering cities below
(we have done all we could),

we have given until we have no more to give;
alas, it was pity, rather than love, we gave;

now having given all, let us leave all;
above all, let us leave pity

and mount higher
to love — resurrection.

“[In poem #2,] H.D. is tackling an enormously challenging problem that I think everybody in our society has to contend with one way or another. And that is when you live in a nation at war, when you live in a time of war, when you feel a sense of hopelessness about your own capacity to love, what difference does my love make, what do I do with my love, with my desire to live in peace with people in a world in which the cycle of war just goes on and on? . . . What do you do with that part of yourself that believes in humane connection to love? . . . H.D. is thinking of the Bethlehem Steel plant, obsessing — what she’s thinking about is . . . what does it mean to live in a world where we are preparing all the time to kill? We are producing massive instruments of destruction. . . . How do you nurture your capacity to love? “

II

I go where I love and where I am loved,
into the snow;

I go to the things I love
with no thought of duty or pity;

I go where I belong, inexorably,
as the rain that has lain long

in the furrow; I have given
or would have given

life to the grain;
but if it will not grow or ripen

with the rain of beauty,
the rain will return to the cloud;

the harvester sharpens his steel on the stone;
but this is not or field,

we have not sown this;
pitiless, pitiless, let us leave

The-place-of-a-skull
to those who have fashioned it.

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

Gadfly will remind you.

“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.