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Hilda Doolittle Biography

(1886–1961), End to Torment, Poetry, Sea Garden, Hymen, Heliodora, Red Roses for Bronze, Helen in Egypt

American poet (who wrote as ‘H.D.’), the daughter of a professor of mathematics, born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and educated at Bryn Mawr College. As a student she was closely associated with Marianne Moore, W. C. Williams, and Ezra Pound, to whom she was briefly engaged and of whom she writes extensively in the autobiographical End to Torment (written in 1958, but not published until 1979). While holidaying in Europe in 1911 she met Pound in London, who styled her ‘H.D.’ when introducing her work to Poetry, Chicago, in 1912. She joined with Pound, Flint, and Aldington, whom she married in 1913 and separated from in 1919, to form the core of the Imagist group. Her first collection of poems, Sea Garden (1916), is notable for the precision and clarity of its imagery, often derived from maritime settings, and for the slender, finely cadenced verse forms which remain characteristic of her poetry. Hymen (1921) and Heliodora (1924) followed, containing poems still identifiable as Imagist while initiating the engagement with classical mythology and the hieratic tone which are conspicuous features of her later work. Subsequent volumes include Red Roses for Bronze (1929) and Helen in Egypt (1961), the latter a lengthy and ambitious narrative also employing prose. The Walls Do not Fall (1944), Tribute to the Angels (1945), and The Flowering of the Rod (1946) were collected as Trilogy in 1973; this constitutes her most remarkable work, combining her experiences of wartime London and her intense imaginative involvement with ancient Egyptian and Judaeo-Christian myth and mysticism. An edition of her Collected Poems appeared in 1984. Among her novels are Hedylus (1928) and Bid Me to Live (1960), a roman-à-clef concerning her involvement with the Bloomsbury circle during the years of the First World War; Hermione (1981) collects three stories on lesbian themes which she chose not to publish in her lifetime. Barbara Guest's Herself Defined: The Poet H. D. and Her World was published in 1984.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Hilda Doolittle (H. D.) Biography to Dutch