Sea Violet

Sea Violet Study Guide

Sea Violet" is part of H.D.'s first collection, Sea Garden (1916), a book of poems in which she examines themes of gender, sexuality, conformity, and value through the metaphor and symbolism of flowers. Like "Sea Rose" and "Sea Lily," also from Sea Garden, it is cutting-edge in turning the feminization of flowers into a socio-political manifesto. This poem, like the other flower poems in the series, questions why traits of resilience in suffering and oppression, grit, and experience are not admired as much in women as purity and aesthetic perfection.

The “sea” flowers in H.D.'s work are usually placed in opposition to the garden or decorative variety, as imagery and context reveal how the “sea” version of the flower fails to live up to classic gender expectations. This failure of the "sea" flowers is not a critique of their shortcomings, but rather a rejection of our patriarchal and misogynistic culture that perpetuates harmful, sexist, and restrictive norms. Further, H.D. uses these flower poems to remind us of the strength of character and value in women who deviate from societal expectations.

Among other titles included in the collection are “Sea Poppies,” "Sea Iris," and "Pear Tree," as well as other poems utilizing natural imagery, like “The Helmsman,” “Evening,” and “Storm.”

Throughout the collection, the feminization of the violets, roses, and other flowers trace a line connecting the Imagist symbolism of H.D.'s poetry to other prominent explorations of the flower, such as the eroticized paintings of southwestern flowers by Georgia O’Keefe, or the enigmatic garden poems of Emily Dickinson.