Brendan Jackson: On "Oread"

It is time to consider the poem [Ezra] Pound selected as the exemplar of Vorticist poetry. "In painting Kadinsky, Picasso," he wrote, in the first issue of Blast, "In poetry this by ‘H.D.’" In Blast the poem is untitled. What it appeared in Some Imagist Poets 1915 it was called "Oread," and this is the title which appears in the Collected Poems [by H.D.]. F. S. Flint in the Egoist referred to the poem as "PINES," clearly believing that it speaks of pines, imaged as a green sea. . . .Pound, however, appears to have read the poem differently . . . "‘H.D.’s’ waves like pine tops." . . . This confusion is, paradoxically, illuminating, for all such formulations misrepresent the poem. The poem is not about pines or sea. It . . . functions in a non-discursive mode and cannot be "unfolded" or explained; for [as Pound stated] "the Image is more than an idea. It is a vortex or cluster of fused ideas and is endowed with energy."

And indeed the most immediately striking quality of "Oread" is perhaps its projection of a contained energy: it is vibrant, yet reaches stasis. The stasis is achieved in part by the poet’s refusal to extend her compass. . . . The energy is a product of the intensity of the poet’s vision. It is bodied forth in the centering of the poem on forceful verbs. In six short lines we find five violent verbs: "whirl" (twice), "splash," "hurl" (strengthened by the assonantal relationship with "whirl"), and "cover." All are in the imperative mood; each is placed at the beginning of a line; and only commas are allowed to articulate this avalanche of energy. Thus we have a movement of breathless crescendo, or rather of repeated climax, suggestive of the surging of sea and forest alike. And thus the poem is a worthy model of authentic imagism, of Pound’s vorticist ideal. . . . the five clauses really offer alternative expressions of a single idea.

From "‘The Fulsomeness of her Prolixity": Reflections on "H.D., ‘Imagiste.’" The South Atlantic Quarterly 83:1 (Winter 1984): 99-100.  Copyright © 1984 by Duke University Press.

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Criticism Overview
Title Brendan Jackson: On "Oread" Type of Content Criticism
Criticism Author Brendan Jackson Criticism Target H(ilda) D(oolittle)
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 03 Sep 2015
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication No Data
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