The first poetry collection from the poet and novelist Hilda Doolittle, known for her association with the early 20th century avant-garde Imagist group of poets such as Ezra Pound and Richard Aldington.
This will be a relatively short review, as this is a short little volume. I came across Sea Garden for free and stuck it on my Kindle for a rainy day, which actually turned out to be that same evening, as I wasn’t falling asleep as fast as I’d like and wanted to read for a bit. None of the books I was reading at the time appealed to me, so I began reading the first few poems in here. Those few then turned in to the whole collection!
Hilda Doolittle is one of my favourite authors, as anyone who follows my blog with any regularity might have noticed. I love the way she writes, with absolutely precision timing, with such beauty and care. I am so very glad that my lovely supervisor, Lorraine Sim, put me onto her, because I kind of feel like H.D. has transformed the way I read and think about modernist literature, as well as women writers in general. Bid Me to Live was a turning point in my reading life, and I didn’t even realise it at first. Asphodel was an extremely tough read, but with all H.D.’s work, your dedication is rewarded tenfold.
Sea Garden took me a little while to sink my teeth into properly. As with a lot of poetry, I just take a little while to get into the groove, especially when it’s a form I’m not overly familiar with. After a few poems, however, I felt like I was sinking into a very comfortable, familiar place with H.D.’s beautiful writing. Her prose is so poetic that it’s only a short step away from her poetry, so I felt right at home.
Imagist poets, such as H.D., Ezra Pound and Richard Aldington
(Oh, how I’d love to hit those two on the head with a brick…) follow three distinct rules in their poetry:
1. Direct treatment of the “thing”, whether subjective or objective.
2. To use absolutely no word that does not contribute to the presentation.
3. As regarding rhythm: to compose in sequence of the musical phrase, not in sequence of the metronome.
H.D. is the master of this style, with all her poetry having a succinct but gorgeous flow, full of musicality, flowers, mythology and violence. I really wish she’d be more recognised outside of academia, because I truly think she deserves it. Her prose style is stunning, and her poetry is expertly rendered. It’s likely true that Ezra Pound stole many of his ideas on Imagism from her, as she was writing in this manner long before he was… but it isn’t the first time he’d screwed her over.
I implore you, if you love poetry and beauty, please have a read of this collection. It’s free! You have nothing to lose! …Except all your money because you’ll want to buy all of the Hilda Doolittle ever, because that is exactly what happened to me.