Friday, October 19, 2007

poem has no charted orbit

On May 25, 1960, H.D. traveled from Europe back to New York to receive the Award of Merit Medal for Poetry at a joint ceremony hosted by the American Academy of Arts & Letters and the National Institute of Arts & Letters. Mark Van Doren made the presentation. "The poems...are so terse, so passionate, and so clear - in other words, so Greek - that they can best be celebrated on this day by giving back to her a few lines." And he quotes from Sea Garden (1916): "you say there is no hope / to conjure you... // But we bring violets..." "H.D.," Van Doren concluded, "to you these lines, those violets and this medal." And here's part of H.D.'s very brief acceptance speech:

Winged words, we know, make their own spiral - caught up in them, we are lost, or found. It is what a poem does, or can do, timelessly, having no charted orbit, or, if it has, then charted with those space instruments which only the spirit provides. / This winged victory belongs to the poem, not to the poet. But to share in the making of a poem it the privilege of a poet, and so I can thank you for measuring in space the whirr of my sometimes over-intense and over-stimulated, breathless meters."

I'm fascinated by this occasion and will doubtless later have more to say about it. For one thing, William Carlos Williams, ill and feeble, made the trip into Manhattan to be briefly reunited with H.D. after many years.

MORE... on H.D. in '60.