grasping the H.D. situation


Written at the twilight high water of American modernism in the early Sixties, chapters scattered among obscure literary magazines like the limbs of Osiris, nearly published as a book by Black Sparrow in 1971, circulated incomplete among poets in samizdat photocopy from 1979, contracted for publication by University of California Press in 1986 and then banished for a quarter century into limbo (a delay which would have killed any other book of its kind, if there were one, but this one is wholly sui generis), Robert Duncan’s The H.D. Book, complete in print at last, now manifests the timeliness of its permanence. Centering on the work of Hilda Doolittle and her part in the invention of modernist poetry, it embraces an assay of modernist practice and tradition as well as a searching investigation of fundamental issues in poetics, with elements of literary autobiography and cultural history and salient reference to depth psychology, cultural anthropology, political economy, art history, philosophy, and religion.

more from Jim Powell at Threepenny Review here.