Off the Beaten Track in H.D. Criticism: “H.D. and the Archaeology of Religion”

Screen Capture of the Journal for Cultural and Religious Theory
Screen Capture of the Journal for Cultural and Religious Theory

Though published in 2010, the H.D. special issue of the Journal for Cultural and Religious Theory offers fascinating resources about H.D. and Robert Duncan, Sigmund Freud, the British Museum exhibits, spiritualism and the occult, and much more. The special issue, “H.D. and the Archaeology of Religion,” is introduced by Colbey Reid. Other articles are by Amy Evans, Lisa Simon, Erin M. McNellis, Amaranth Borsuk, and Merrill Cole.

A nice summary of the journal contents appears in H.D.’s Web: An E-newsletter, Winter 2009. Since the journal is indexed in religion and humanities databases, rather than ones devoted to literature, these citations may be hard to find.


Paul Robeson’s Borderline discussed in Skin Acts

Book Cover for Skin Acts by Michelle Ann Stephens
Book Cover for Skin Acts by Michelle Ann Stephens

Finding H.D. Studies in unexpected places….

Michelle Ann Stephens’s Skin Acts: Race, Psychoanalysis, and the Black Male Performer (Duke UP, 2014) devotes a chapter to Paul Robeson, including his work on Borderline. Her chapter, “Bodylines, Borderlines, Color Lines” takes up Robeson’s physical performance as well as the meaning of his performance situated within the H.D./Bryher/Macpherson group within the film.

Book Description from the Duke Press page:

In Skin Acts, Michelle Ann Stephens explores the work of four iconic twentieth-century black male performers—Bert Williams, Paul Robeson, Harry Belafonte, and Bob Marley—to reveal how racial and sexual difference is both marked by and experienced in the skin. She situates each figure within his cultural moment, examining his performance in the context of contemporary race relations and visual regimes. Drawing on Lacanian psychoanalysis and performance theory, Stephens contends that while black skin is subject to what Frantz Fanon called the epidermalizing and hardening effects of the gaze, it is in the flesh that other—intersubjective, pre-discursive, and sensuous—forms of knowing take place between artist and audience. Analyzing a wide range of visual, musical, and textual sources, Stephens shows that black subjectivity and performativity are structured by the tension between skin and flesh, sight and touch, difference and sameness.

H.D. featured in The Transmutation of Love and Avant-Garde Poetics

Book Cover of The Transmutation of Love and Avant Garde Poetics by Jeanne HeuvingJeanne Heuving’s The Transmutation of Love and Avant-Garde Poetics is now out from the Modern and Contemporary Poetics series of the University of Alabama Press. Heuving claims that this writing of love is defining for avant-garde poetics, identifying how such important discoveries as Pound’s and H.D.’s Imagism, Pound’sCantos, and Duncan’s “open field poetics” are derived through their changed writing of love. This book places H.D. at the center of Modernist invention.  There are chapters in the book on “Imagism as Projective Love”  and on “Being in Love and Writing Love,” as well as individual chapters on H.D., Pound, Robert Duncan, Nathaniel Mackey, and Kathleen Fraser.


Jeanne Heuving has written an ardent study of the metamorphosis of Western love and its classic poetic tropes involving desire and the poetic objects of longing, by proposing an altered configuration of eros in modern and contemporary poetry. Resisting the attack on or the reduction of love as only a literary or social convention, and acknowledging changed relations of gender and altered knowledge of sexualities in modernity, Heuving treats the poetic practices of Pound, H.D., Duncan, Fraser and Mackey and offers serious theorizing on the poetics of Amor. This vibrant contribution to poetic criticism makes claims for love as ecstatic perception, the I as “othered” in love, and the affects and effects of this eros, all going beyond the poetry of the yearning gaze and the static beloved into a wider libidinal field. In fascinating readings and deft theoretical insights, she tracks the implications of this re-articulation of eros for poetic languages, formal innovations, textual subjectivities, and poetics.”
—Rachel Blau DuPlessis, author of The Pink Guitar: Writing as Feminist PracticeBlue Studios: Poetry and Its Cultural Work, and Purple Passages: Pound, Eliot, Zukofsky, Olson, Creeley, and the Ends of Patriarchal Poetry

The Transmutation of Love and Avant-Garde Poetics proposes that the engagement of sexual love and its energies is the source of the creative power in some of the most interesting poetry written in the past one hundred years. Asserting the value of a ‘projective love and libidinized field poetics,’ Jeanne Heuving astutely draws our attention to the erotic transformations that animate the poetry of Pound, H. D., Duncan, Mackey, and Fraser, assessing changes through the psychodynamic propositions of Plato, Freud, Lacan, and Kristeva. The result is a truly enlightening insistence on the connections between these poets’ formal innovations and the topic of sexual love, whose permissions Heuving ingeniously finds submerged as a slowed down, introjective set of relations in Olson’s ‘Projective Verse,’ a discovery I find revelatory. The whole book, sharply written and superbly argued, should alter the way American avant-garde poetry is read.”

—Peter O’Leary, author of Phosphorescence of Thought and Gnostic Contagion: Robert Duncan and the Poetry of Illness


Matte Robinsons’ New Book, The Astral H.D., Released February 2016

Book cover image for Matte Robinson's The Astral H.D. (Bloomsbury 2016)
Book cover image for Matte Robinson’s The Astral H.D. (Bloomsbury 2016)

We are pleased to announce the release of Matte Robinson’s new critical assessment of the role of the occult in H.D.’s life and work. The book, The Astral H.D. (Bloomsbury, 2016), includes examination of Majic RingTrilogyVale Ave, Sigmund Freud, Erich Heydt, and much more. Here’s the press blurb:

Modernist poet H.D. had many visionary and paranormal experiences throughout her life. Although Sigmund Freud worried that they might be ‘symptoms,’ she rebelled, educating herself in the alternative world of the occult and spiritualism in order to transform the raw material into a mythical autobiography woven throughout her poetry, prose, and life-writing. The Astral H.D. narrates the fascinating story of how she used the occult to transform herself, and provides surprising revelations about her friendships and conflicts with famous figures-such as Sigmund Freud and the Battle of Britain War Hero Hugh Dowding-along the way.

Congratulations to Matte!


The Geopoetics of Modernism, featuring H.D. chapter now available through UFloridaPress

Geopoetics of Modernism book cover
The Geopoetics of Modernism by Rebecca Walsh, UPF 2015 (book cover)

Rebecca Walsh’s new book, The Geopoetics of Modernism (UPF, 2015), includes an impressive chapter on H.D.’s poetry through the lens of global, spatial theories. Other chapters focus on Walt Whitman, Langston Hughes, Helene Johnson, and Gertrude Stein in relation to both academic and mass geographical perspectives of Humboldt and Somerville, Ellen Churchill Semple, Ellsworth Huntington, and the National Geographic magazine.

More information about the book is available at


Forthcoming in 2014: H.D.’s Hirslanden Notebooks, edited by Matte Robinson and Demetres Tryphonopoulus

The Hirslanden Notebooks, written from 1957-1959, offer autobiographical reflections and dream interpretations from this productive period in H.D.’s career. For the ELS Editions publication announcement, see