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The H.D. Book

The H.D. Book

Robert Duncan
Michael Boughn
Victor Coleman
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: 1
Pages: 696
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  • Book Info
    The H.D. Book
    Book Description:

    This magisterial work, long awaited and long the subject of passionate speculation, is an unprecedented exploration of modern poetry and poetics by one of America's most acclaimed and influential postwar poets. What began in 1959 as a simple homage to the modernist poet H.D. developed into an expansive and unique quest to arrive at a poetics that would fuel Duncan's great work in the 1970s. A meditation on both the roots of modernism and its manifestation in the work of H.D., Ezra Pound, D.H. Lawrence, William Carlos Williams, Edith Sitwell, and many others, Duncan's wide-ranging book is especially notable for its illumination of the role women played in creation of literary modernism. Until now,The H.D. Bookexisted only in mostly out-of-print little magazines in which its chapters first appeared. Now, for the first time published in its entirety, as its author intended, this monumental work-at once an encyclopedia of modernism, a reinterpretation of its key players and texts, and a record of Duncan's quest toward a new poetics-is at last complete and available to a wide audience.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94802-0
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-ix)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. x-xii)
    Michael Boughn and Victor Coleman
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-32)
    Michael Boughn and Victor Coleman

    The H.D. Bookis one of the great “lost” texts in the history of American poetry. In 1959, when he began writing the book, Robert Duncan was already an accomplished and well-known poet, connected with the Berkeley renaissance and the San Francisco renaissance, as well as Black Mountain College and the Beat poets. He had published a number of important works—includingHeavenly City, Earthly City; Medieval Scenes; Fragments of a Disordered Devotion; Caesar’s Gate; The Venice Poem;andLetters—and was about to appear in Donald Allen’s groundbreaking anthology,The New American Poetry. His mature work, however, had yet...

  6. Book 1:: Beginnings

    • Chapter 1
      (pp. 35-68)

      It is some afternoon in May, twenty-five years ago as I write here—1935 or 1936—in a high school classroom. A young teacher is reading:

      Fruit cannot drop

      through this thick air …

      The patience of her voice, where hope for a communion in teaching still struggled with a resignation to institutional expediencies, the reaching out of her voice to engage our care where she cared, had a sad sweet lure for me. But now, as she read the poem, something changed, became more, transformed by her sense of the poet’s voice, impersonating the poet H.D.

      … fruit cannot...

    • Chapter 2
      (pp. 69-78)

      Writing these opening pages of a book “On H.D.” or “For H.D.,” a tribute and a study, I came at this point to see this first part or movement of the book as relating how I had found my life in poetry through the agency of certain women and how I had then perhaps a special estimation not only of the masters of that art but of its mistresses, so that certain women writers came to be central in importance for me. Miss Keough reading to us in that high school English class long ago the poem “Heat,” so that...

    • Chapter 3 Eros
      (pp. 79-99)

      The work, the ground, and Eros lie at the heart of our study here. The work itself is the transformation of the ground. In this ground the soul and the world are one in a third hidden thing, in imagination of which the work arises. It is the work of creation then. It is Poetry, a Making. It is also theopus alchymicumof Hermetic and Rosicrucian alchemy. The rhymes of this poetry are correspondences, workings of figures and patterns of figures in which we apprehend the whole we do not see. The path that poetry creates between reality and...

    • Chapter 4 Palimpsest
      (pp. 100-123)

      The first great era of Romance is born in the fictional civilization that follows the world conquest of Alexander, as the Hellenic becomes the Hellenistic in an empire of Orientalizing Greek and Hellenizing Orient that eventually has its capital in Rome. When again in the eighteenth century, the Western World would conquer India, the dream of Vishnu returns to infect the West, so that in the nineteenth century even in America, with Emerson and Whitman, the synthesizing Romanticism of a new world-mind is under way. And it is to this Romantic movement that Pound, H.D., and Lawrence, in the Imagist...

    • Chapter 5 Occult Matters
      (pp. 124-152)

      This is not the beginning of the book. That was later, or, coming later, it was written earlier. What was to become our study began surely long ago. In one sense it began before writing or reading began, when as a child I lay drifting in the environment of voices talking in the next room. I would be put to bed among the potted plants by the wall that was all windows of a sunroom or herbarium at my grandmother’s, and, as my elders talked in the inner chamber, I, outside, could gaze at the night sky where some star...

    • Chapter 6 Rites of Participation
      (pp. 153-200)

      The drama of our time is the coming of all men into one fate, “the dream of everyone, everywhere.” The fate or dream is the fate of more than mankind. Our secret Adam is written in the script of the primal cell. We have gone beyond the reality of the incomparable nation or race, the incomparable Jehovah in the archetype of Man, the incomparable Book or Vision, the incomparable species, in which identity might find its place and defend its boundaries against an alien kind. All things have come now into their comparisons. But these comparisons are the correspondences that...

  7. Book 2:: Nights and Days

    • Chapter 1
      (pp. 203-252)

      Naming the stars out of the seas of heaven, men drew a net-work. The knots were suns, were burning. What the poets who bound the dragon of their confusion spun were lines of association where figures of light appeared, giving direction. All life is oriented to the light from which life comes. The bees in their dances are oriented to the sun and, if it is dark, will dance in relation to a candle flame. Men found at night a new orientation in the stars, found a heaven, a spreading mesh of lights, that became a projected screen of where...

    • Chapter 2
      (pp. 253-278)

      I have been reading recently along a line in the German romantic tradition, perhaps with a vague sense of relation to this search that has a beginning and an end in the entity H.D., but at the same time it seemed to me a rest or a change from my daily preoccupation to read these romantic tales and phantasies in the evening before sleep. Then I found myself following clues of what I sought for in these tales of man’s psyche in the northern forest world. Long ago, as a child, I had known Tieck’sThe Elves,and after years...

    • Chapter 3
      (pp. 279-312)

      It is time now for the projected configuration, the visual projection of The War Trilogy. Not only the images of the poem arise from vision but the formal concept relates primarily to illumination, painting, or tapestry, in contrast, for instance, with the musical concept of Eliot’sFour Quartetsor Pound’sCantos. Music enters in—the “O, What I meant / by music when I said music” ofTribute to the AngelsXXII comes as a poignant yearning:

      music sets up ladders,

      it makes us invisible,

      it sets us apart,

      it lets us escape;

      “but from the visible,” she continues: “there...

    • Chapter 4
      (pp. 313-350)

      Pound inHow To Read(1927) and again inABC of Reading(1934) lists three practices or faculties of poetry: (1)phanopoeia“throwing the object (fixed or moving) on to the visual imagination,” where language operates somehow like a magic lantern or a motion-picture projector in relation to the receiving mind that is a screen. The early definition of the image as “that which presents an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time” is appropriate for the stationary, almost hallucinatory, presentations of early imagist poems—Pound’s “apparition” of faces as petals on a black bough, seen in the...

    • Chapter 5
      (pp. 351-402)

      “Rails gone (for guns),” the poem begins, with the officers of the State, in the name of the War Effort, taking over all the conditions of personal reality into their own use, “from your (and my) old town square.” With the declaration of war in the modern state, which claims to represent the authority of the people, the means and ends of the war become the ultimate reality (as in the interim between wars, which we call “Peace,” to face reality means to accept and work with the terms of the dominant mercantile capitalistic and usurious system). The critical contempt...

    • Chapter 6
      (pp. 403-426)

      In the current issue of the poets’ journalOpen Space,I find in an untitled poem by Harold Dull upon listening to the operaOrfeothe concept that in each step of the life drama of Orpheus he gains a question: “and by the time / he goes into the dark / to lose her the second time”:

      he has as many apparently forever to be unanswered questions as there are strings on his lyre.

      striking a chord with those passages of H.D.’sHelen in Egyptwhere in Book Two of the “Eidolon” section it seems that Helen in her...

    • Chapter 7
      (pp. 427-441)

      I seek now in working upon the later draft of the book not to correct the original but to live again in its form and content, leaving in successive layers record of reformations and digressions as they come to me. The form realized then is not to be a design immediately striking, like those housing developments and landscapings that rise where disorderly areas of a city have been cleared away, but it may be like an old city—Freud’s picture of Rome upon Rome—in which in the earliest remains, in the diary of March 10th to March 15th, March...

    • Chapter 8
      (pp. 442-466)

      I woke again this morning before dawn. But there is only what I rejected of the dream to work with, and back of that—not even an image but a name that seems out of order, disorderly,—“sally rand.” Once I bring the name up, back of the name I glimpse the fragment of a dream image I must recover now. I had, I gather, in a scene that must form part of our pictograph, been caressing H.D.’s naked back. One member of the dream-work or of the “Chinese written character as a medium for poetry” I have to do...

    • Chapter 9
      (pp. 467-526)

      Ne pas oublier un grand chapitre sur l’art de la divination par l’eau, les cartes, l’inspection de la main, etc.” So Baudelaire writes inMon coeur mis à nu, which now that it has come up, I begin to use in my own divinations. Finding my rhyme in the opening propositions of Baudelaire’s essay: “De la vaporisation et de la centralisation duMoi.” Where he, too, proposes to start “n’importe où, n’importe comment, et le continuer au jour le jour, suivant l’inspiration du jour et de la circonstance, pourvu que l’inspiration soit vivre.”

      To bring one thing into another as,...

    • Chapter 10
      (pp. 527-546)

      What is the truth of the matter. The gospel truth. For the truth of what actually happened we need a jury, “the recollection of adults,” which Freud in the early essay “Screen Memories” would call upon to test the truth of childhood memories. Fact is one kind of truth of the matter. But the facts of memories, Freud began to suspect, have been reassembled into a fiction of the living. Each psyche strives in its account of the facts to present its peculiar experience; here the facts are not true in themselves but become true as factors of the fiction...

    • Chapter 11
      (pp. 547-590)

      Glimpses of the Last Day:In the West some intense fire burned, red in the evening. Fires were scattered over the landscape, descending suddenly as if cages or caps of flames had been clamped down from another realm above over men where they were, working in the fields or on their way home, or as if footsteps of angelic orders, fateful and yet oblivious of the individual, had burst into flame. At random the incendiary blows fell and yet with a purpose everywhere to charge the world with the realization of its last day. Just here, and then just here,...

  8. Appendix 1: Preliminary Notes toward Book 3 of The H.D. Book
    (pp. 591-646)
  9. Appendix 2: Composition and Publication History of The H.D. Book
    (pp. 647-648)
  10. Appendix 3: A List of Works Cited by Robert Duncan in The H.D. Book
    (pp. 649-658)
  11. Credits
    (pp. 659-660)
  12. Index
    (pp. 661-678)