Autumnal fruit

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My first NSFW videopoem. If you are for some reason offended by the sight of naked human beings, there are lots of cat videos on YouTube that you should probably be watching instead.

Rather than spend another whole day working to re-build my ramshackle blog network, I dove into a project that’s been tempting me for days, ever since I listened to Nic Sebastian’s reading of “Orchard” by H.D. at Pizzicati of Hosanna. Sometime in the midst of the chaos, I got the idea of trying to work a female nude into this video. When I ran across filmmaker Laurel Nakadake’s video of porn actresses reading poems by Dora Malech, and I saw how poetry conferred a sort of dignity on those women, it strengthened my resolve to try and incorporate natural-looking, non-exploitative footage of a nude into a true videopoem. What I found is unattributed, and evidently uploaded by its creator at archive.org’s Community Video section, which I’m pretty sure means it’s public domain. I found the Creative Commons-licensed music on SoundCloud, which is by a fellow in Kiev named Tim Six, by searching for anything with the word “ritual” in its description.

I’ve never been a huge fan of H.D., but Nic’s reading made me see this poem, at least, in a new light. The volunteer Keiffer pear tree behind my house, which is still loaded with fruit even as its leaves turn color and snowflakes swirl around it, was another inspiration. It was tempting to do the obvious and incorporate shots of the tree into the video, but I managed to resist that loveliness.

Since it’s out-of-copyright, I might as well share the text of the poem:

Orchard

by H.D. (Hilda Doolittle)

I saw the first pear
As it fell—
The honey-seeking, golden-banded,
The yellow swarm
Was not more fleet than I,
(Spare us from loveliness)
And I fell prostrate
Crying:
You have flayed us
With your blossoms,
Spare us the beauty
Of fruit-trees.

The honey-seeking
Paused not,
The air thundered their song,
And I alone was prostrate.

O rough-hewn
God of the orchard,
I bring you an offering—
Do you, alone unbeautiful,
Son of the god,
Spare us from loveliness:

These fallen hazel-nuts,
Stripped late of their green sheaths,
Grapes, red-purple,
Their berries
Dripping with wine,
Pomegranates already broken,
And shrunken figs
And quinces untouched,
I bring you as offering.

8 Comments



  1. Dave,
    I too have never been too floored by H.D. in the past, but this was lovely. Though there was something a little off about the nude for me, it still worked well with the poem.
    Would you be interested in doing one of your videos of one of my yoga poems? I would love to use it to advertise the book, and it might bring you some new visitors to your site.

    Reply

    1. Thanks for commenting. Yes, I might be interested in that, though you understand my anti-literal approach to videopoetry would probably preclude the inclusion of something so obvious as shots of actual yoga poses! I don’t promise to do anything soon, or at all, but if you’d like to email a copy of the manuscript, feel free: bontasaurus (at) yahoo (dot) com. Thanks.

      Reply

  2. Dora Malech! She was the year below me at Yale, and I remember going to her readings then and thinking, Lord, I can’t wait to see what she does later, too. I have to confess, it’s as exciting to hear about her work as it to watch yours.

    I liked the inclusion of the nude woman, especially since she was–appeared to be–pregnant.. Reading the poem (without watching the video or hearing Nic’s reading) might have, after multiple readings, brought up thoughts of fertility, old gods and Biblical gardens, fruit of the tree, fruit of knowledge, fruit of flesh, all the myriad associations we have with fruit (and orchards, for the Druids among us) and prostration–but I liked how the video brought some of these associations to the immediate surface. Not in opposition, either; but alternation. Visually, the contrast between the woman’s roundness and the trees’ linearity was strong but not overpowering. Well done!

    Reply

    1. I always forget you’re a Yale alum — it doesn’t fit with my image of that school, I guess. You and Dale Favier! But cool, I’m glad you know her.

      fertility, old gods and Biblical gardens, fruit of the tree, fruit of knowledge, fruit of flesh, all the myriad associations we have with fruit (and orchards, for the Druids among us) and prostration

      H.D. was all about that stuff. I guess I tried to make a video she would’ve liked. I’m glad you liked it, too!

      Reply

      1. You know, I take that comment about not fitting with the image as a compliment. *grin*

        Reply

  3. This is beautiful, Dave – visual and aural elements in perfect balance. The touch of presence on Nic’s voice and the electronic rustle just beneath underpin the atmospheric video and subject poem to haunting effect. I’ve been an H.D. fan since falling for her picture and biog (and the verse) at the age of 16 so this was a treat!

    Reply

    1. Oh, thanks, Dick. I’m glad this resonated with you, then.

      Reply

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