Born Hilda Doolittle in Pennsylvania in 1886, the course of her future as a published poet was set both literally and figuratively by a close and intense relationship with one of the most famous and influential literary figures of the 20th century: Ezra Pound. In addition to being profoundly influential on her development as a central figure in the Imagist school of poetry, Pound also cemented her public identity by writing “H.D., Imagiste” along the bottom margin of one the pages of the first three poems she submitted for publication. From that point on, she would become forevermore known as the poet H.D.
That transformation occurred in 1912; by 1915 her poetry was already starting to collect prestigious awards. In addition to Poetry magazine’s Guarantor’s Prize in 1915, H.D. would be honored with the Libre Prize from Little Review in 1917. In 1938, she added the Poetry magazine’s Levinson Prize. Although missing out on winning the Pulitzer, H.D. capped a string of subsequent accolades in 1960 with the American Academy of Arts and Letters poetry award; an honor conferred only twice a decade.
Her close association with Pound naturally made her an important figure in the Imagist school while also inevitably situating her firmly within the expansive shadow he cast. While not as well-known as many of her contemporaries, H.D. has posthumously enjoyed what is perhaps the ultimate tribute to any writer: being “discovered” by later generations which resulted in sales, critical awareness, academic anthologizing and scholarly attention continually increasing since her passing.
In 1916, H.D. published her first collection of poetry. Sea Garden is the poetic equivalent of a concept album in which the title is sustained as a theme through a series of image-laden poems devoted to plants and flowers found growing near the water. The poems in that collection as well as Hymen, (1921), Heliodora and Other Poems (1924), Red Roses For Bronze (1931), her epic World War II trilogy (The Walls Do Not Fall, Tribute to the Angels, and The Flowering of the Rod) and various previously uncollected and unpublished poems are featured in the latest editions of The Collected Poems of H.D.