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H. D. TRILOGY FILM (director/writer: Larry Jordan; cast: Joanna McClure; Runtime: 115; MPAA Rating: NR; Facets Video; 1993)
“Filmmaker Larry Jordan has H.D.’s long poem “Hermetic Definitions” read aloud while an actress named Joanna McClure depicts her in a faux documentary.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

H.D., or Hilda Doolittle, was an American writer/poet born in 1886 in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. She lived most of her long life in Europe, dying in 1961. H.D. was known as an Imagist poet, though her later poems went way beyond that description. She has remarked “I don’t know that labels matter very much. One writes the kind of poetry one likes. Other people put labels on it. Imagism was something that was important for poets learning their craft early in this century. But after learning his craft, the poet will find his true direction.” Her romance with Ezra Pound had ended, but he traveled to Europe before her and introduced her to London’s literary circles. In London she also met the novelist Richard Aldington, whom she married in 1913. Throughout her life she had adored all things Greek and therefore many of her poems were addressed to the Greek myths. Her lifestyle was bohemian, and in her open marital relationship hubby had a mistress and she took a woman lover named Bryher. H.D. referred to herself as Freud’s pupil, and he referred to her as his analysand, during 1933 and 1934. H.D. later wrote “Tribute to Freud” as a fictionalized memoir of this period, reliving this happy time in her life. Her interests included mysticism, Hellenic studies, Egyptology, and astrology.

In this three part film, filmmaker Larry Jordan has H.D.’s long poem “Hermetic Definitions” read aloud while an actress named Joanna McClure depicts her in a faux documentary that covers three trips from 1990-1992. We follow an imaginary trip to Greece in the summer of 1990 in a chapter entitled “The Black Oud.” Part 11 is set in San Francisco and is entitled “The Grove of Academia.” Part 111 is set in Pesara, Italy, and entitled “Star of Day.” The following poem, in particular, left a deep impression on me.

Sea Rose

Rose, harsh rose,marred and with stint of petals,meagre flower, thin,sparse of leaf,

more preciousthan 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 liftedin the crisp sandthat drives in the wind.

Can the spice-rosedrip such acrid fragrancehardened in a leaf?


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”