Yet for H.D. herself, the issue of writing was clearly tied to the issue of vision, or rather writing was the issue of vision. Her first book of verse, Sea Garden, opens with a poem called "Sea Rose." An exemplary Imagist poem, its very particularity resonates with rich, multiple correspondences:
Rose, harsh rose, marred and with stint of petals, meagre flower, thin, sparse of leaf,
more precious than a wet rose single on a stem— you are caught in the drift.
Stunted, with small leaf, you are flung on the sand, you are lifted in the crisp sand that drives in the wind.
can the spice rose drip such acrid fragrance hardened in a leaf? (CP 5)
The rose is a rose but an unusual type. Compared to the wet rose, the sea rose carries a "complex of emotion, as Pound put it, suggesting a new, or more precisely a renewed way of being, free from the accumulations of sentimentality, a sparse, hardened, "pagan" renewal of spirit.
At the same time, like Pound's rose in the steel dust, Williams' obsolete rose and Stein's rose rose, H.D.'s sea rose (which precedes them all) also speaks to a tradition of writing. The rose is not only a rose; it is an inescapable convention of writing that even a proposition such as "Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose" necessarily invokes, if only in its attempt to negate it. The sea rose proposes a new imagination of that convention, one that resonates with the renewed spirit. The poem itself is the rose, and the acrid fragrance is literally "hardened in a leaf, " a leaf made of pulp.
This "fragrance" issues from the prosodic structure of the poem, its sonal field. Understanding of H.D.'s prosodic techniques has remained consistently underdeveloped since critics first wrote in generalities about her "chiselled form" and "delicate cadences." To a certain extent, this lack of understanding is due to the over-exaggerated importance placed on Ezra Pound's perceptions and analysis of H.D.'s work and imagism in general. While Pound's observations are acute and essential, they are neither complete nor unbiased, reflecting his specific concerns and limitations at the time, including his involvement with T. E. Hulme's philosophy. The philosophical dimension of Imagism continues to be the focus of most critical attention. Pound's adoption of Hulme's ideas and his adaptation of them in his own Doctrine of the Image have been recounted, analyzed and reanalyzed numerous times, while technical discussions of the actual poetic innovations remain confined to observations of the correlation between the poetry and the "Dont's" of the manifestos.
Yet as Charles Hartman points out, it is not content that makes a "poetic fact" poetic, but shape (132). A list of objects in "Sea Rose" does not necessarily mean anything, much less inspire vision. The "complex of emotion" that corresponds to the "poetic fact" only occurs when the language is organized in an adequate form. Just as the Image arises from the perception of a dynamic, generative relation among things, form arises from the perception of a dynamic, generative relation among the basic units of language in the poem: At the center of both relations is the activity of correspondence or equivalence, to use Jakobson's term (360). To simply talk of H.D.'s powerful images begs the question. The issue is how she organized language so that it continues to be "endowed with energy."