Sarah Barnsley‘s article, “‘Sand Is the Beginning and the End / of Our Dominion’: Mary Barnard, H.D. and Imagism,” explores a poetics of history in the Imagist landscapes of these two poets. The article makes good use of the archive, offering unpublished work by Barnard for attentive reading. Using the metaphor of sand, “a substance [that] lends itself well to poetic appropriation,” Barnsley develops a particular understanding of perspective and of Barnard’s and H.D.’s articulation of time through sensitive and perceptive examinations of their poems.
Barnsley fully and thoughtfully pursues the versatility of sand in the poems of Barnard and H.D., which she sees sometimes as Imagist “‘verbal grit,'” while at other times as simultaneously “solid and liquid” or even “fruity.” The porous texture of sand allows it to adhere to poetics with startlingly adaptive ease that results in fascinating new readings of these poets.
Please enjoy this short excerpt from Barnsley’s essay:
For Barnard and H.D., sand possesses a translucence replete with possibilities, from the “reflecting sands” in “Shoreline” to “grains…clear as wine” in “Hermes of the Ways.” Theirs is an elegant yet raw poetic program, producing a spare poetry that is both coarse and irregular in places, like a handful of sand grains, yet that conceals a portal to the sublime when perceived as a whole, like the awe-inspiring visual spectacle of the beach that has enthralled poets particularly since the Romantic period.
Sarah Barnsley is a Tutor in English and American Literature at Goldsmiths, University of London, where she is also Director of the English distance-learning program. Her other scholarship on Mary Barnard includes the recently-published “Mary Barnard’s ‘North Window’: Imagism and the Pacific Northwest” in Western American Literature 44.3 (Fall 2009). Additionally, she is completing a book manuscript, “Mary Barnard, Late Imagist,” and co-organizing a Mary Barnard centenary event to take place in June 2011 at Reed College, Portland, Oregon.