H.D.

Watch on Vimeo

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.