Friday, September 26, 2014

MOOC ModPo Poem of the Day: "Sea Poppies" by H. D.

The Songs of Eretz MOOC ModPo Poem of the Day for September 26, 2014 is "Sea Poppies" (1916)* by Hilda Doolittle (aka H. D.) (1886 - 1961).  An extensive biography and references may be found here:  http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/h-d.  The poem is in the public domain and therefore legally reprinted here.

Sea Poppies
H. D.

Amber husk
fluted with gold,
fruit on the sand
marked with a rich grain,

treasure
spilled near the shrub-pines
to bleach on the boulders:

your stalk has caught root
among wet pebbles
and drift flung by the sea
and grated shells
and split conch-shells.

Beautiful, wide-spread,
fire upon leaf,
what meadow yields
so fragrant a leaf
as your bright leaf?

"Sea Poppies" provides a good example of the kind of rhythm that the Imagists sought in their poetry--a rhythm that follows a musical cadence rather than a strict form.  The free verse is quite free, with irregular stanzas and lines that vary considerably in length, yet the poetry flows smoothly.

The poem tells the story of a poppy seed pod that is cast by the sea upon the shore and takes root in the sand.  The wild fruit produces a strong, equally wild plant that is unusually beautiful and fragrant.

The poem may be an allegory for H. D. herself.  Once, to the horror of on-lookers, she waded out into the ocean.  Transfixed or in some kind of ecstatic reverie, she allowed the waves to buffet her until she was knocked unconscious.


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