Dead [Women] Poets Society Blog

Thea Ayres resurrects H.D.

Poet and author Hilda Doolittle (pen name H.D.) was born in Pennsylvania in 1886, and moved to London in 1911. She was a master of Imagism, a style that uses concise language, frozen snapshots and precise, striking imagery. Her first-person narration is immediate and immersive, plunging into the minds of her speakers with little or no exposition. She was an innovative and original poet, and went far beyond the Imagist style, writing long, narrative poems, with psychologically complex speakers and an intensely passionate and distinctive poetic voice. She was interested in Freudian psychoanalysis, feminism and Greek mythology.

I have chosen to resurrect her for Dead [Women] Poets Society because so many of her poems are like séances with the women of Greek myth and the classical world. Her personae include Calypso, Helen of Troy, Eurydice, Sappho, an anonymous oread and a dead priestess. Her poetry rescues women’s voices from history, subverting the male gaze and retelling familiar male-centric stories from a woman’s perspective.

Following H. D. I have tried to channel the voices of the women of the past, in my case trans women. My first poem is an ancient trans woman’s perspective on the story of Hermaphroditus and Salmacis. My second poem is in the voice of a nymph who does not look or act like the nymphs imagined by men. I have tried to imitate H. D.’s direct, immersive style of narration. My third poem is a séance with an imaginary dead trans woman poet who refuses to respond.

Salmacis’s pool

by Thea Ayres