“Sea Violet” is part of the collection of the first volume of poetry published in 1916 by Hilda Doolittle, better known by her initials, H.D. That volume also includes one of her most anthologized poems, “Sea Rose” as well as the less well known “Sea Iris.” While it may seem as though Sea Garden carries this trend to its logical extreme, in fact, most of the poems do not feature similar titles.
The common thread unifying those with similar titles are the juxtaposition of the “sea” version of the flower with the traditional display version. Within these poems, the flowers become metaphors by which the poet examines traditional concepts of femininity, idealized concepts of female beauty and the strength of character that can come from not meeting these societal expectations.
“Sea Violet” joins with the other “sea flowers” poems in the Sea Garden collection to enact a revolutionary revisionism of not just how women are conventionally viewed, but also how flowers are utilized as construct for a poem. Eschewing the sentimentalized treatment of flowers by Victorian poets trapped by the more conservative dictates of that repressed era, H.D. seeks to eroticize the form and meaning of the flower. In doing so, her sea flower poems may also be said to have set the stage somewhat for the arresting visual eroticizing of flowers by noted American painter Georgia O’Keefe.