Oread Study Guide

"Oread," one of H.D.'s earlier poems, was first published in the magazine BLAST in 1914 and has become one of her most anthologized works. Scholar Gary Burnett points out that the publishing history of the poem is notable. While "Oread" is one of H.D.'s earliest Imagist poems, it was not part of a complete collection until 1924, when it was included in Heliodora. The title Heliodora alludes to Greece and H.D.'s use of Greek myth, as well as playing with H.D.'s initials—bringing to the forefront H.D.'s identity as speaker in many poems, and including her in the mythical paradigm. Burnett writes, "This is not to imply that her two earlier volumes—Sea Garden of 1916 and Hymen of 1921—are not concerned with the relationship between image and identity, but only that 'Oread' becomes part of the collection in which this concern is for the first time explicitly foregrounded." In the 1925 book Collected Poems, "Oread" was placed in a section called "The God," separate from Heliodora, which more accurately reflected the poem's chronology and status.

The epitome of the Imagist style, "Oread" offers a simultaneous density and simplicity that stuns the reader with its fervor. The poem stands as an example of the function of "dream-work," as Freud would put it, allowing the speaker to experience and express emotion and sensation through a scene removed from its original context. Early poems like "Oread" laid the foundation in H.D.'s career for a poetic ontology riddled with psychoanalytic influence. Critic Susan Friedman notes:

The rational eye of the conscious mind would not see pine-tree waves, splashing pines, or "pools of fir." Such vision belongs to the "Kingdom of the Illogical." If H.D. were to report such dream images to Freud, he might well have called them an illustration of "dream-distortion"...The speaker does not say that a rough sea looks like pointed trees; she sees tree-waves. Just as the dream-work gives the dreamer a visual representation of unconscious impulses, so the poem conjures an illustration of nonrational reality that conveys an "intellectual and emotional complex" in a highly condensed form.

Although "Oread" relies heavily on imagery, like many of H.D.'s poems, it goes far beyond sensory experience and into the psyche—using scenes of myth and metaphor to probe affective constellations of desire, fantasy, and power.