H.D.’s Palimpsest: The Work of the "Advance-Guard" in a History of Trauma

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Yes. Raymonde had (the recurrent miracle) come somehow through. Going on and on and on. Who fished the murex up? She would re-type the poems and send them to Johnstone on the Bi-monthly. He had asked for her poems, but probably he wouldn't like them. Not abstract enough. Not clarid nor concise enough. Perhaps she could rework them.

--H.D., Palimpsest (166)

The personal and public trauma of the First World War led H. D. to question the role of avant-garde art and the efficacy of the “clarid” and “concise” imagist poem. H. D.’s novel Palimpsest (1926) stages the poet’s doubts in the postwar period, reframes the prewar avant-garde, and itself posits a kind of art that might allow the writer to formulate an ethical standpoint. Despite excellent analyses of H. D.’s prose work in the last several decades by scholars such as Susan Stanford Friedman and Adalaide Morris, H. D. continues to be known as the founding poet of imagism, a characterization that has endured ever since 1912 when Ezra Pound transformed the American Hilda Doolittle into the expatriate poet H. D. In the face of this legacy, it is important to note that in the 1920s H. D. turned from the lyric poetry of imagism to lyric narrative in prose as a strategy better suited to capturing the modernist moment.

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