David W. Clippinger, Ph.D.

David Clippinger


Resurrecting the Ghost:
H.D., Susan Howe, and the Haven of Poetry

the law of succession the blankness of symbols vertebral distance turned   pale and broke this kind of logic  --Anne-Marie Albiach "Vertical Effort in White"

What thou lovest well remains, the rest is dross what thou lov'st well shall not be reft from thee what thou lov'st well is thy true heritage Whose world, or mine or theirs or is it of none   --Ezra Pound Cantos LXXXI

    H.D. conceptualizes the matrix of history and textuality as a palimpsest rife with aporias--a point that is perhaps most evident in Helen in Egypt where Helen's subjectivity is fractured by conflicting myths, texts, and personal narratives.  Ultimately, the poem takes place in the gaps between textual sources, and in this regard, H.D.'s technique of foregrounding the interstices of histories and texts suggests resonances with the practices of a number of contemporary poets--and in particular Susan Howe.  Like H.D., Howe's poetry focuses upon textual and historical aporias and contradictions and especially how the traces of meaning are part and parcel of a shifting economy of  ideologies.  Subsequently, the issue of "Whose world?" bears directly upon both of their poetry.  As Howe remarks during an interview with Ruth Fallon, " I hope my writing explores issues of power and control and order" (35). Yet for both H.D. and Howe, the goal is not to definitively resolve such tensions.  As Howe states, "I don't think conflicts are ever dissolved.  You just learn to abide them" (Fallon 40).     

Regardless of the overtly political issue of textual/historical tensions, their poetry also engages in a process that is deeply laden with personal significance.  As Alicia Ostriker notes in "No Rule of Procedure: The Open Poetics of H.D.," H.D.'s technique resembles Charles Olson's sense of "composition by field" as a way of exploring psychological processes, and that the poem engages in the infinite movement within the finite field of personal subjectivity.  In a slightly different manner than H.D., Howe also draws upon poetry as a means of exploring subjectivity within a larger cultural and historical field.  Howe incorporates pieces of her familial history directly into her poems (see Secret History of the Dividing Line, for example) or interjects messages to herself as in the line "Obedience we are subjects Susan" from "Melville's Marginalia" (Nonconformist's Memorial 150). The issue of "whose world" bears directly upon H.D.'s and Howe's position as poets, and both use the poem as a means to explore the tenuous webbing of self and world.  More importantly, each regards the poem as a means to engage the absences and silence that often surround and efface the self.  As this essay will demonstrate, both H.D. and Howe consider the poem a means of invocation that resurrects the "ghosts" of history-marginalized and/or lost voices that have been subjected to the forces of ideology-as well as the shades of personal subjectivity implicit within the ebb and flow of cultural history.  Through its force, the poem is more than capable of explicating the intertwined tangle of personal and historical issues by resurrecting voices to sing again within the haven of the poem.

I. Twinning: H.D./Helen    

The state of Helen's identity, memory, and subjectivity is the crux of Helen in Egypt, and the poem revolves around the character of Helen and her inability to reconcile the contradictions, absences, and gaps that seem to speak her.  The lacuna of Helen's subjectivity is central to the poem as a whole-a point emphasized from the opening introduction that foregrounds the conflicting textual sources:

        We all know the story of Helen of Troy but few of us have followed her to Egypt.  How did she get there?  Stesichorus of Sicily in his Pallinode, was the first to tell us.  Some centuries later, Euripedes repeats the story.  Stesichorus was said to have been struck blind because of his invective against Helen, but later was restored to sight, when he reinstated her in his Pallinode.  Euripides, notably in The Trojan Women, reviles her, but he also is "restored to sight."  The later, little understood Helen in Egypt, is again a Pallinode, a defence, explanation, or apology. (1)

The originary site of internal conflict for Helen is an extension of textual conflicts.  Helen's fractured sense of self mirrors the dissonance of the various texts that attempt to represent and render her.  H.D.'s poem confronts the limitations of these source texts in order to transform Helen from ghost to person; consequently, Helen in Egypt centers upon the character of Helen, which in effect circumvents the directness of H.D.'s ideological critique.     Helen's opening lines further emphasize that she and not the "source texts" is the center of the poem: she is the "living hieroglyph" that is the poem.

    Do not despair, the hosts

    surging beneath the Walls,

    (no more than I) are ghosts;

    do not bewail the Fall,

    the scene is empty and I am alone,

    yet in this Amen-temple (1)

    The prose induction firmly situates the "defence" between other source texts, and Helen describes herself as a "ghost" lingering between emptiness and fullness-absence and presence.  Helen literally embodies (bodies forth) the issues of textuality, subjectivity, and writing, but at the opening of the poem she is not conscious of this fact.  Rather, Helen perceives herself as mere surface that lacks any definitive characteristics.  To accentuate this, the poem utilizes the image of the hieroglyph in order to suggest the metaphoric layering of writing and Helen.    Early in the text, the poem foregrounds Helen's inability to read the hieroglyphs.  Helen states,

    I feel the lure of the invisible,

    I am happier here alone

    in this great temple,

    with this great temple's

    indecipherable hieroglyph;

    I have "read" the lily,

    I can not "read" the hare, the chick, the bee,

    I would study and decipher

    the indecipherable Amen-script. (21)

Shortly after the above passage, the poem stresses that Helen is the "living hieroglyph":

        We were right.  Helen herself denies an actual intellectual knowledge of the temple symbols.  But she is nearer to them than the instructed scribe; for her, the secret of the stone-writing is repeated in natural or human symbols.  She herself is the writing. [italics in the original] (22)

As a language that integrates the visual and the semantic, H.D. draws upon Helen as the "living" hieroglyph" to suggest the twinning of Helen and poetry and to emphasize how she is an extension of the process of the poem.  Yet, like Herman Melville's Queeqeeg, whose history is written on his body (Moby-Dick), Helen lacks the ability to read her own subjectivity, and she, therefore, looks to "exterior" (Greek and Trojan) sources to resolve her sense of identity.    

The enigma of the hieroglyph re-presents Helen's contradictory and paradoxical sense of her self, as she begins her exploration at the most basic rhetorical and textual level-the ideologically loaded perspectives of the Greeks and the Trojans.  Subsequently, the first book of Helen in Egypt, "Pallinode," focuses upon the question of "how to reconcile Trojan and Greek?" and her preoccupation with determining which of the two presents the "true" Helen.  Yet this initial binary of either Trojan or Greek is further complicated in the second book, "Leuke,"  when Paris and Theseus appear at the Amen-Temple and present their narratives about Helen.  Paris predictably represents the "Trojan" perspective, but he also alludes to the potentiality of other narratives:

    . . . the story the harpers tell

    reached us, even here upon Leuke;

    how [Helen] was rapt away

    by Hermes, at Zeus' command,

    how she returned to Sparta,

    how in Rhodes she was hanged

    and the cord turned to a rainbow,

    how she met Achilles (129)


Regardless of this acknowledged multiplicity of perspectives,  Paris resolutely concludes:

    I am the first in all history

    to say, she died, died, died

    when the Walls fell; (131)

While Paris represents the Trojan position, he also complicates the either/or binary by introducing other narratives and other voices.  In effect, Paris ruptures the possibility of an either/or reconciliation, which further suggests that Helen must forego a dualistic logos in favor of a more multi-faceted purview that draws upon memory and love (both of which are situated within Helen's body) as a transformative agent.     

Subsequently, after Paris, the poem presents yet another narrative that offers a more inclusive perspective:

    . . . Helen finds her way to another lover, whose story is not so familiar as to us as that of Paris and the early suitors.  For Helen, we gather, was a child when Theseus, the legendary king and hero, stole her from Sparta. (147)

Whereas Paris's response demonstrates his selfish and self-aggrandizing investment in Helen's death-namely, that as his possession, her death guarantees that she remains wholly his-Theseus offers Helen gentle guidance.  Theseus reiterates the centrality of Helen as a "living" hieroglyph, and it is through his coaching that Helen comes to recognize the law of love that provides her the means to "read" the hieroglyphs.  Theseus explains to Helen,

    That is the law here,

    perhaps everywhere, I do not know;

    . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


    that only Love the Immortal,

    brings back love to old-love,

    kindles a spark from the past; (149)


The infusing of love into Helen's consciousness alters her conception of her subjectivity, and, more importantly, it marks a change in the remaining poetic landscape of Helen in Egypt.  That is, love is the means to reclaim agency and resolve the disparity of subjectivity.  The tool at Helen's disposal is not a weapon-neither Achilles' famed Armor nor Paris's bow-but love with its ability to rekindle and revisit the past, re-ignite memory, and transcend the dialectical slippage of linear time.    

If the crux of the poem is the precarious state of Helen's subjectivity, love and its explicit linkage to memory and time is the means to reconcile or at least repair the fracturing of her identity.  Love is central to the poem as a whole, and Theseus's lesson also clarifies the seemingly idiosyncratic portrayal of time throughout the poem as a whole.  That is, the human conception of time is a linear continuum-from the past to the present to the future-but love, as Theseus proposes, provides a means to revisit the past by fusing new love to old love and thereby fracturing the continuum by unveiling a temporal loop.   Via love, the linearity of time is disrupted in favor of a layering of synchronous moments-what Julia Kristeva describes as the tabular model, where the "term network replaces univocity (linearity) by encompassing it, and suggests that each set (sequence) is the outcome and the beginning of a plurivalent relation" (Kristeva 32).  The individual remains subject to time, but love as a site of condensation of personal history allows for the disruption of linearity by reaffirming the role of memory to subjectivity and the concomitant cycle of forgetting and remembering as the multiple planes that subjective history negotiates.    

The poem ebbs and flows as Helen "tells and retells the story" and as she weaves, unweaves, and reweaves the tapestry of the poem and her self.  In essence, her love infuses the ghost (memory) with life (subjectivity).  The task for Helen is to reconcile the conflation of her memories and the various narratives, to sort them out, and claim her story/her self.  Helen asks, 

 did any of [the others in the epic] matter?

    did they count at all,

    or were they mere members of a chorus

    in a drama that had but one other player?


The answer is clear that Helen is the one player, and the chorus are those memory-laden others whose significance is evident only in relation to her own sense of self.     

In this regard, the poem resembles a nexus with Helen at the center and  various nodes extending outwards from her.  The overarching narrative of Helen in Egypt explores the webbing that unfolds from Helen as a way of interrogating her identity, but the movement along the pathways always doubles-back.  That is, Helen understands her self via her relation to these others, who mirror aspects of her self.  In effect, the other is a lens into the self, which is further amplified by the sustained trope of twins throughout Helen in Egypt--and especially the double-set of twins of Helen and Clytaemnestra, Castor and Pollux, as well as the blurring of  Helen and Thetis.  One of the key refrains to the second half of the poem is Helen's question "how have the arcs crosses? / how have the paths met?" (189).  Love is both the crossing and the means of comprehending the points of convergence.    

Within H.D.'s poetic alchemy, love as a force operating outside of the scripted bounds of logic is the catalyst that fuses together all facets of personal subjectivity including memory, experience, personal history, and emotions.  As such, the individual "crosses" the arc of others through love-love for one another, similar things or experiences, or (in the case of Susan Howe, which this essay will address later) the love of words, texts, ideas, and authors.  Love, in this regard, marks where two (or more) paths converge, but also illuminates what is loved, shared, and experienced.  The tracery of connections between individuals, their interdependence and interwoven subjective positions within a grander social tapestry, are woven out of love.  The force of love in relation to this larger social fabric drives H.D.'s poem forward as she focuses upon the "crossings" and "convergences" that constitute Helen's self.    

Helen's sense of affinity to others is vital to her understanding/reclaiming of her self, but it is the force of love that "completes the circle."  In other words, the ghosts of others that Helen invokes are empty until she fuses them with herself.  As H.D. writes in her unpublished "Notes on Euripedes, Pausanius and Greek Lyric Poets,"

    "Ghosts to speak must have a sacrifice," I remember reading long ago in a critique by a great German scholar, "and we must give them the blood of our hearts." (Davis 149)

Love is a sacrificial gift that resurrects ghosts by kindling a spark of the past and bringing that memory into the light of the present. Love provides the means to reinvoke and re-experience the past, and therefore rupture its perceived distance.  The movement of love as it sounds the various connections between self and others extends outwards to the other-infusing him or her with energy-while simultaneously bringing the self into the light.   In this way, H.D. may be drawing upon Sigmund Freud's image of subjectivity as a stratified but wholly accessible tablet upon which the history of the self and the self's relation to others has been carefully recorded.  As Freud notes in Civilization and its Discontents:

    . . . that nothing which has once been formed can perish-that everything is somehow preserved and that in suitable circumstances (when, for instance, regression goes back far enough) it can once more be brought to light. (16)

For H.D., the means to "recover" the past is love, and the agent for understanding is the "blood of our hearts."  Love, not systemic reason, is the medium through which the indecipherable script can be read and transformed.  Furthermore, love manifests as the poem itself and the role that Helen takes in light of love is a guide for others-both of which are points that will be taken up in greater detail later in this paper.     Helen achieves a sense of peace through the fusing of love with memory, and since love elides the double-bind of either/or, it allows for a multiplicity of being.  As Helen states after recognizing the epiphany of love,             

    reconcile? reconcile?

    day, night, wrong, right?

    no need to untangle the riddle,

    it is very simple. (192)


A space for a seemingly illogical multiplicity or multi-dimensionality of subjectivity is cleared by the force of love. Again Helen states,

    Achilles said, which was the veil,

    which was the dream?

    They were one-on the horizon

    a sail sensed, not seen . . . (238)


The transformation of the image of the "they" into the "one-on the horizon" emphasizes the process whereby Helen recognizes how her numerous selves ("they") are united under the umbrella of the "I" as one that is always becoming.  The history of the self is in fact a chain of various selves all of which contribute to the present inception of the self-what T.S. Eliot refers to in "East Coker" as "a lifetime burning in every moment" (Four Quartets 31).  These stratas of selves are embedded in one's memory, and the force of love allows for the invocation of the past that resurrects the traceries of the self. Helen recognizes that there is no univocal self, but rather a history of selves in the process of becoming.  Consequently, there is no need to strive for complete reconciliation because the "one" always looms on the horizon--unattainable but always possible.    

The emphasis upon this one-ness anticipates the closing of the poem--Helen's achieved "pause" in the infinite flow of the universe.   The final lines read: "the seasons revolve around / a pause in the infinite rhythm / of the heart and of heaven" (304).  The flow of time and the rhythms of the heart are united in the dual sense of love/memory.  Love stands as a marker in the perpetually unfolding field of time, and love as choice invokes the past and fuses it with the eternal present of one's subjectivity. And as H.D. writes in "Notes on Euripedes,"  "Choose what you love, there is not time for everything" (Davis 149).  While acknowledging an inescapable sense of human partiality (that there is not time for "everything"), love is the force that unites the history of the self through the inextricable linkage of love, memory, and identity.  In the words of Ezra Pound, "What thou lovest well is thy true heritage."  As Susan Stanford Friedman notes in her seminal Psyche Reborn: The Emergence of H.D., "Love is the primal force in H.D.'s syncretist mysticism . . ." (230).  One might extend this statement to read that love is the primal force in H.D.'s syncretist poetics as well.   Just as love transcends the bounds of the present and makes all loves present, the poem is in fact the pause-a site of condensation where multiple perspectives converge.  This pause is Orpheus' look back without the loss of Eurydice; in fact, the look back places loss under erasure by reaffirming the multiple and seemingly contradictory dimensions of the "I."  Subsequently, the achieved "pause / in the infinite rhythm / of the heart and of heaven" is explicitly linked with the poem's ability to invoke, presence, and resurrect multiple perspectives.     In essence, the poem for H.D. arises out of the cracks between seemingly dissonant planes and forms a bridge-an ideological suture-that mediates the various narrative textures. Helen in Egypt does not refute the various stories, but the defence transforms those stories into another shape.  As Rachel Blau DuPlessis argues,

    By postulating that another shape to traditional stories, occurs necessarily, H.D. mutes the critique she is making.  In her view, stories are not created but recovered; they are not new-made but really old.  Helen in Egypt is the archeological site where those recovered stories are found. ("Romantic Thralldom," 416)

H.D. invokes the ghosts of Helen's identity by recreating the heteroglossic layering of texts and memories that mirrors the force of  subjectivity and poetic becoming.      

Helen in Egypt recovers, shelters, and nurtures, the voice of Helen, but whereas H.D. recognizes that Helen is "inscribed" within the boundaries of vested political interests, the poem shifts its focus away from these ideological tensions towards Helen in order to grant the space for her to penetrate these boundaries and claim her own agency.  In essence, the poem partially effaces the issue of ideology by placing Helen (and not the chorus) at the core.  The onus, therefore, falls upon Helen to realize the potency of love and transform herself from ghost to person.  The move from the chorus to Helen diffuses her status as passive cipher and affirms her role as self-liberating hero.  Yet this also mutes the underlying cultural oppression that Helen encounters.  But as Susan Gubar notes, "[H.D.] hides her private meaning behind public words in a juggling act that tells us a great deal about the anxieties of many women poets"  ("Echoing Spell" 299).  Cultural anxiety may have inhibited H.D. from engaging in a direct and explicit analysis of the marginalized position of women in society, but the narrative of reclaiming personal agency speaks directly to H.D.'s experience as a writer and her conception of the inherent power of poetry.  In this regard, Helen stands in as the figure for H.D.'s poetic achievement: she epitomizes the poem's power to invoke and offer peace, which is represented by the "close" of Helen in Egypt where Helen is transformed from seeker to healer and guide.  The poem for H.D. is in not only a vehicle for resurrection but one of healing and regeneration.

II. "Behold a Mirror": Howe/Ariadne    

H.D.'s conception of the poem as a tool that addresses historical and textual gaps and resurrects the lost suggests a significant parallel with Susan Howe's poetry.  As a whole, Howe's poetry echoes Helen's quest to become healed, whole, and reconciled with her multiplicities.  In a slightly different manner than H.D., where the healing power of poetry is embodied indirectly by the figure of Helen, the poem itself for Howe is the salve: it is the force of love to resurrect that resides at the core of her poetry. Howe considers her work as historical scholarship but with a twist-the tool for excavation is the imagination that presences history in poetry, and the site for excavation consists of textual aporias and historical contradictions.  Howe writes, "Historical imagination gathers in the missing" (Frame 3).  The ambiguity that surrounds the words "gathers" and "missing" indicates the poem's ability to render multiple perspectives, and the sentence can be read as either of two possibilities: the imagination culls its power, collects itself, and emerges out of the abyss; and/or, the poem as imagination gathers in its embrace all that is missing.  Moreover, the act of excavation and embrace has personal repercussions since "the gaps and silences are where you find yourself" ( Birthmark 158).  In short, the poem engages in and embodies a process that delves into cultural and personal depth--the cycles of cultural and personal memory.  "All of the excitement in writing for me," Howe explains, "is in the process.  I believe process is part of the meaning of a poem, and is just as inseparable from meaning as sound and sight" (Wray 84). That process is contingent upon ideological forces.  And whereas H.D. eschews overt discussions of identity politics per se, Howe blends the personal with the political.  While H.D. glosses over the explicitly ideological dimensions of Helen's (and by extension H.D.'s) subjectivity, Howe places the political implications of subjectivity at the very fore of the poem.  In this regard, Howe can been seen as extending H.D.'s poetics to its "postmodern" inception.  That is, Howe's poetry explicates the collision of subjectivity with politics, history, and textuality--all of which are evident in Helen in Egypt but are not fully addressed.      Howe concentrates upon the ideological depths operating within and upon a text, and her poetry engages the heteroglossic texture of narrative in order to render a field of textual and subjective possibilities.  The poem interweaves meanings, and in Howe's hands the modernist palimpsest is transformed into an anthology of ghost stories.  The ghost of "meaning" lingers within the stories, but that meaning can neither be extracted from the texts nor fully presenced.  Like H.D., Howe begins from a position of conflict, and she builds her poetry around an absent core.  Nearly all of Howe's poetry begins with the premise of the forgotten or the absent, but perhaps none is more overtly political than A Bibliography of the King's Book, or Eikon Basilike, which focuses upon both the forged book attributed to Charles the First before he was executed and the texts that have followed in its wake.  Those texts tend to be aligned either with the Royalists (The King's Book itself) or the supporters of Cromwell (as in John Milton's The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates).  Subsequently, Howe's A Bibliography of the King's Book suggests a recursive thematic gesture to Helen in Egypt and the tensions between textual sources as well as the impact of those tensions upon identity.  In essence, Howe reiterates Helen's question of "How [to] reconcile the Trojan [read "Royalists"] and Greek [read "Puritans"]?"  But whereas H.D. places Helen at the center of the poem and employs her as a mask for the  issues of textuality, writing, and subjectivity, Howe questions directly how textuality and ideology impact the issue of subjectivity.  In other words, the chorus is of grave import, which reveals Howe's indebtedness to the poststructuralist stance that a culture conditions, monitors, and influences individual and societal behavior.      

Nevertheless, Charles the First is the silent and invisible force behind Howe's King's Book, and not unlike Helen in Egypt, the poem examines the relationship between the king and the explicitly ideologically encoded narratives that attempt to contain and speak him.  But whereas Helen in Egypt resurrects the ghost of Helen to provide her with personal agency and, consequently, identity, Howe proposes that the Eikon is a forgery (Nonconformist 47) and therefore there is no King to resurrect.  "The absent center," Howe writes, "is the ghost of a king" (Nonconformist 50).  Howe is interested mapping the material dissolution of subjectivity and the subsequent trace of authorship that the King represents.  The author is always a ghost; and similar to Helen, the author's subjectivity is always displaced by the materiality of the text, which is further superseded by the reception and interpretation of the text. Definitive meaning (as the exchange of the author for another) is always transported along a chain of texts--in this case the "bibliography" of the "King's Books."     As the introduction stresses,

        A bibliography is "the history, identification, or analytical and systematic description or classification of writings or publications considered as material objects."  Can we ever really discover the original text?  Was there ever an original poem?  What is a pure text invented by an author?  Is such a conception possible?  Only by going back to the pre-scriptive level of thought process can "authorial intention" finally be located, and then the material object has become immaterial. (Nonconformist 50)

The dissolution and resurrection of authorial "ghosts" are the products of history and the perpetually unfolding web of texts that depend upon an a priori assumption of originality.  As Howe remarks, "An idea of firstness or earliness is always what my work is after" (Wray 82) even as she recognizes the impossibility of  rendering the origin.  The textual thread--like Helen's evolving subjectivity--is never finished  but rather infinitely deferred and extended; instead, the poem is a "re-reading retracing the once upon" ( Singularities 41).   Julia Kristeva explains this process as "Reminiscence":

    Poetic language appears as a dialogue of texts: every sequence is made in relation to another sequence deriving from another corpus, such that every sequence has a double orientation: towards the act of reminiscence (the evocation of another writing) and towards the act of summation (the transformation of this writing).  The book refers to other books and by the modes of summation (of application, in mathematical terms) gives those books a new way of being, elaborating thereby its own significance. (30)

As both a recursive move back to its sources (reminiscence) and a projection forward (summation), the poem ennunciates itself and its evolving processes.   Therefore, when Howe titles her introduction "Making the Ghost Walk about Again and Again,"  she is not seeking to "free" the ghost of the king from its prison but to set in motion the force of the poem via her transformation of the materials at hand.   The poem is the invocation of voices and the subsequent dialogue of texts.  Again, Kristeva's analysis directly applies to Howe's poetics:

    'To read' [for the Ancients] was also 'to bring together', 'to gather', 'to watch for', 'to discover the trace of', 'to take', 'to steal'.  'To read', then, denotes an aggressive participation, an action appropriation of the other.  'To write' would then be 'to read' as production, as industry; writing-reading, or paragrammatic writing, would then be the aspiration towards aggressivity and total participation. (30)

The issue of "aggressivity" aside, which is directly antithetical to Howe's poetics, Kristeva's sense of writing/reading as total participation that gathers and traces offers an insightful perspective of Howe's poetry as the accumulation of texts that revolve around similar issues or persons.     "A Bibliography of the King's Book" gathers and traces a sweeping range of textual referents that includes Hamlet, Sir Thomas More's The History of King Richard the Third, Edward Almack's A Bibliography of the King's Book , John Milton's The Tenure of Kings, writings (real and forged) by King Charles the First, Philip Sidney's Arcadia, Francis F. Maden's A New Bibliography of the Eikon Basilike, Charles Dickens's David Copperfield, Perrenchief's Life, Hershett's Declaration, as well as references to the Greek myth of Ariadne, Theseus, and the Minotaur's maze.  The ability to find points of overlap between all of these texts might seem Herculean, but as Howe remarks in My Emily Dickinson, "Connections between unconnected things are the unreal reality of Poetry" (97). Consequently, "The King's Book" seeks out the tenuous thread that binds all of these texts together, which uncoils from an absent ghost.     Not unlike the prose introduction to Helen in Egypt, which details the various conflicts of textual sources, the first eight pages of "The King's Book" is a pastiche of words, quotations, and passages from various sources; furthermore, the arrangement of these passages on the page further emphasizes the inherent tension between these various texts: some words utterly efface others and multiple lines run concurrently and create a visual cacophony.  Textual hierarchies are visually deconstructed, and exact pages are mirrored inversions of one another in order to suggest differing perspectives of the same material. Copy of page 4-5 here The page presents a heteroglossic cacophony of voices that the speaker/author attempts to negotiate.  The overlap of lines further accentuates that there is no one clear voice, no definitive boundaries, and therefore no singular path-all of which contributes to the perpetual slippage between "speakers" that is the ever widening context of the poem.  In an attempt to move forward, a voice, perhaps that of the poet, emerges out of this thicket of voices:

    This still house An unbeaten way My self and words The King kneeling Old raggs about him All those apopthegems Civil and Sacred torn among fragments Emblems gold and lead (Nonconformist 60)

These lines situate the reader and writer ("my self and words") within an opening  in the thicket--"this still house""--but poised to enter again(st) the thicket on an "unbeaten way."  Suggesting an echo of Howe's "Thorow" where the narrator "go[es] through the word Forest" (Singularities 49),  the task at hand is to disavow established textual interpretations (a worn path) and move into the gap on the map.  As  the lines that immediately follow the above passage emphasize, the goal is to "cross" into what remains perpetually unresolved:

    Must lie outside the house Side of space I must cross To write against the Ghost (61)

The poem drifts from the anchor of textuality into the trace of meaning.   To write against the ghost is to willingly engage the impenetrable silence and absence; it is to allow oneself to be taken along the currents and eddies of textual dissemination.  "Every source," Howe remarks in The Birth-mark, "has another center so is every creator" (39).  "The King's Book"  glides from "center" to "center" and slips from the materiality to the immateriality of creator--from person to phantom,  sign to trace.  Such authorial slippage obviously impacts Howe as a poet--a point that the poem itself stresses:

    Bibliography Of The Authorship Controversy  STay Passenger  BEhold a Mirror (62) [italics and caps. in original]

The writer and reader are passengers conducted along the channels and conduits of textual dissemination, but such a passage is not merely textual: it mirrors the self and offers a glimpse of  personal subjectivity within the deeper context of social and historical forces. The poem is a tool that searches out textual affinities, but those affinities further illuminate the self.  Consequently, the source materials under scrutiny parallel the process of reading, and like Helen in Egypt, the twinning of self and other(s) is more than mere coincidence; rather, it is the force of the poem as a whole.  The reverberations between text and text, text and self, and author and reader is absolutely vital, and the poem is the means by which those reverberations are sounded.      "The King's Book" transcribes the dialogue between texts as well as documents the self's interaction with those texts in order to reveal the "I" in flux as it moves through and with these sources.  The layering of the poem is heteroglossic and polyvalent, but the "I" remains crucial to the dialogue as a whole: "I am a seeker / Blades Blades & Blades" and "I am a seeker / of water-marks / in the Antiquity / The Sovereign Stile / in another Stile / Left scattered in disguise" (Nonconformist 64). The "I" engages the textual field, and the mode is historical scholarship.  The considerations of publication dates, watermarks, and the examination of rhetorical style and genre are absolutely central, and the lines "I am at home in the library / I will lie down to sleep" (Nonconformist 75) attest to the exhaustive nature of such scholarship.     The poem in effect maps the proliferation of ideas from "stile" to "stile" and book to book, while simultaneously documenting the "I" in the process of discovery, recovery, and transformation the multi-facet, interwoven dimensions of the "I," history, and texts. The "I" as seeker responds to a text but is also carried forward by the text, and the trace of meaning-a ghost-carries both the "I" and the chain of texts forward.  In this regard, Howe's "King's Book" is merely the most recent installment of a long-evolving textual genealogy that originates with the death of the King Charles the First.  The title page of Howe's "King's Book" makes this point with rather considerable wit and intelligence: Title Page here Note that  "member of the bibliographical society" is not crossed out, demonstrating a point of affinity between Almack's text and Howe's as well as a shared critical methodology.     Nevertheless, to further illustrate the tracery of the inception and reception of ideas and texts, the next to last page of the poem incorporates a longish passage from Charles Dickens's The Personal History of David Copperfield that integrates the subject of King Charles the First with  the conception of textual proliferation that Howe has been carefully explicating.  The full passage reads:

        I was going away, when he directed my attention to the kite.     'What do you think of that for a kite?' he said.     I answered that it was a beautiful one.  I should think it must have been as much as seven feet high.     'I made it.  We'll go and fly it, you and I,' said Mr. Dick.  'Do you see this?'     He showed me that it was covered with manuscript, very closely and laboriously written; but so plainly, that as I look along the lines, I though I saw some allusion to King Charles the First's head again, in one or two places.     'There's plenty of string,' said Mr. Dick, 'and when it flies high, it takes the facts a long way.  That's my manner of diffusing 'em.  I don't know where they may come down.  It's according to circumstances, and the wind, and so forth; but I take my chance of that.' (Nonconformist 81)

The overarching sweep of the poem surveys the trail of texts and copies inscribed within the dialectical flux of history:

    Dominant ideologies drift Charles I who is "Caesar" Restless Cromwell who is "Caesar" Disembodied beyond language in those copies are copies (Nonconformist 80)                 

The poet participates in and is caught up in the flux of the ideology, language, and the "disembodied," but as Howe writes, "The poet is an intermediary hunting form beyond form, truth beyond theme through woods tangled and tremendous" (My Emily Dickinson 79-80).   As an intermediary, the poet negotiates the ebb and flow of texts, and what eludes definitive form in fact drives the poetic pursuit forward.  In effect, the wake of a ghost (origins, answers, forms) presses the pursuit deeper into the maze of meaning, the tracery of texts and their infinite resonances and regresses.     The final page of "The King's Book" revives an earlier textual theme--the narrative of Ariadne, Theseus, and the Minotaur--in order to accentuate the similarities between textual dissemination and the maze.  The earliest lines in reference to Ariadne read "Archaic Arachne Ariadne / / She is gone she sends her memory" (Nonconformist 69).  The visual and aural rhyme of "Archaic" (marked by the characteristics of an earlier period), "Arachne" (spider), and "Ariadne" alludes to the integral relationship between source material, the poem , and the poet; that is, the poem excavates prior sources, which the poet uncoils and reweaves.  Or as the lines read, "Ariadne  // led Theseus"  (79).   The portrait of Theseus as he makes his way through the Minotaur's maze spooling out the thread that metonymically presences the "absent" Ariadne parallels the process of the poet.  The poet is both Theseus as he makes his way through the maze and Ariadne who winds the thread into the poem.     The image of thread is again underscored by the word "silk" placed at the top of the last page of the poem.  The word "symbolic" immediately follows "silk" and reinforces the metaphoric layering of the thread as the sign of the chain of an idea, text, or person--a point that is further stressed on that page by the words "trace," "thread," and "penned" as well as "praeperative" and "Ariagne" (the combination of "Ariadne" with "again").  A thread is wound around an empty bobbin in pr(a)eperation for a new beginning, which is emphasized by the structure of "The King's Book" where the poem makes its way first through earlier material  illustrated by the incorporation of archaic spellings and Latin words and citations. As the poem moves through and away from the conflict between the Royalists and Puritans, it follows the inception of  that tension through the centuries and into the present.  In effect, Howe's poem responds to an unresolvable puzzle of the irreparable absence of "originators"--the King as well as the printer of The Eikon Basilike, The Pourtaiciture of His Sacred Majestie in his Solitude and Sufferings.

    No further trace of the printer IN | HIS | SOLITUDE | To The Reader the work Prayers, &c. belonging to no one without Reasons (Nonconformist 52)

The poem, caught in an inexhaustible maze, slowly unravels a spool of ideas and passages that are the only physical remnants of the elusive ghost of a king.   The texts have become the corpus of the king, and like Helen, he has become a "living hieroglyph" in that his absent body continues to be shrouded by further interpretations, postulations, and texts.          The figure of Ariadne winding thread around a spool and Theseus meandering through the maze while cautiously unraveling that thread echoes the image of the poet in the act of (re)creation, (re)construction and suggests an interesting overlap with H.D.'s poem.  In Helen in Egypt, Theseus, paired with Helen, is a guide who helps Helen to reconcile her multiplicities.   Theseus is paired with Ariadne in Howe's poem, and he embodies the poetic force capable of moving through the maze in the pursuit to bring the past into the present in a new light.  Howe, in effect, adopts the essence of Helen and Theseus but re-presents them as two interdependent dimensions that her poetics revolves around-forgetting and finding, unearthing and pursuing.  "A poem," Howe writes, "is an invocation, rebellious return to the blessedness of beginning again, wandering free in pure process of forgetting and finding" (My Emily Dickinson 92).  The poem is part of a temporal loop that rediscovers and redefines itself and its subject, and it concludes with the seemingly inconclusive lines "She / was / winding / wool / Cloud / soft / threada / twist" ( Nonconformist 82).  The final two words of the poem--"threada" and "twist"--suggest a temporary pause in the flow of the poem, a moment of reflection in the maze, rather than a full stop since the poem will continue to follow the thread as it twists into further passages and moves deeper into the maze.  There is no full stop in a maze, and no full stop in poetry: "There was no Truth, only mystery beyond mystery" ( My Emily Dickinson 138) as the poem engages in this process of perpetual unfolding in pursuit of the elision of the "true." But as Helene Cixous states,

    What is most true is poetic because it is not stopped-stoppable.  All that is stopped, grasped, all that is subjugated, easily transmitted, easily picked up, all that comes under the word concept, which is to say all that is taken, caged, is less true. (Cixous 4)

The maze cannot be solved because it always will continue to grow: the poem itself adds another thread to the whole and does not reveal its totality-or to borrow a phrase from Henry James, the poem fails to ascertain the "figure in the carpet."  Parallel with Howe's conception of the maze, H.D.'s pause in the infinite rhythm suggests a similar stance towards truth, the poetic, and the unstoppable; therefore, Helen's identity is never fully rendered since such an act would falsely cage the true and the poetic.      Whereas H.D. and Howe share a great deal in regards to the poem as a means to resurrect the lost, the marginalized, their most poignant affinity is in their attitude towards the poem as an intellectual (or scholarly) act galvanized by love.  To return to the image of Ariadne and her bearing upon Howe's poetic, what should not be overlooked in the discussion of the maze is the presence of love in the Greek myth of Ariadne and Theseus.  It is Ariadne's love for Theseus that prompts her to spool the thread as he prepares to enter the Minotaur's maze. In effect, she winds the thread out of her love for Theseus, and as he unravels the thread in the maze, that thread is the physical trace of her love--or as the poem reads, "She is gone She sends her memory."  In this regard, Ariadne is the site of condensation for several layers of Howe's conception of the poem as the textual, historical, and personal that is catalyzed by love.  As Howe describes her poetics, "I am pulling representation from the irrational dimension love and knowledge must reach" (Birth-mark 83).  Love and knowledge are inextricably linked and both strive to  "pull representation" out of the abyss of the lost, in order to "put the pieces back" (Frame 28) by resurrecting memory.  As the line from "The King's Book" clearly demonstrates, love drives the intellect: "An intellectualist out of submissive levelling [sic] love" (Nonconformist 59).      Love bears directly upon the poetics of both H.D. and Susan Howe and especially in its subjective register as the motivation for the poet's engagement with the material. In both poems, love is not only the catalyst that reinvokes memory and, thereby, drives the poem deeper into the maze, it is also the force that "saves" the past and the self from destruction.  Love elides the erasure of time by remaining beyond the reach of temporal erosion and reinstates a sense of personal and/or social peace.  Theseus's law of love-that love disrupts strict temporal linearity in order to presence the past and its concomitant memories-provides Helen with the means to achieve a sense of peace represented by the "pause."  The power of love to "level" time also informs Howe's poetics, yet her focus might be said to extend from the specific (i.e., Helen's fractured subjectivity or the ghost of the King Charles the First) to the larger ideological forces that create these textual and subjective ghosts.  As Howe explains,

    I know records are compiled by winners, and scholarship is in collusion with civil government.  I know this and go on searching for some trace of love's infolding through all the paper in all the libraries I come to. (Birth-mark 4)

Ideological forces create aporias where persons have been transformed into ghosts, but love remains as the residual trace of a person who lingers despite nearly complete erasure.  The poem searches for love and infuses the discovered ghosts with a gift of the self.  "Memory becomes desire" (Singularities 41) as the self writes "from perception to recollection" (Frame 26).  It is in this vein that Howe claims that "If history is a record of survivors, Poetry shelters other voices" ( Birth-mark 47)--the forgotten and the marginalized. The poem is explicitly concerned with the balance of ethics-a poethics to borrow Joan Retallack's phrase-both within the realm of texts and society.  In essence, Howe's poetry confronts emptiness out of her desire to fight against forgetting and to restore some semblance of social balance and history. III.  "And She carried a book": H.D./Howe/Mary       As is clear from My Emily Dickinson and The Birth-mark, the issue of the marginalized writer in relation to a dominate culture is absolutely cardinal to Howe.  More often that not the position of inferiority is relegated to women--many of whom (like Helen) can be found in the "cancellations, variants, insertions, erasures, marginal notes, stray marks and blanks" (Birth-mark 9).  In this light, Howe extends Helen in Egypt to its postmodern manifestation in terms of identity politics by critiquing the ideologically-driven forces that Helen herself confronts.  "Identity and memory," Howe reminds us,  "are crucial for anyone writing poetry.  For women the field is still dauntingly empty" (My Emily Dickinson 17). Her poetry attempts to remedy the emptiness of the field by reclaiming and resurrecting voices not just in her poetry but in her prose by paying tribute to Emily Dickinson and Gertrude Stein and infusing them with her own memory.  After all, Howe's book is titled My Emily Dickinson.         In this regard, Howe is very aware of what Robert Duncan describes in his homage to H.D. as the continuity of love, writing, and language that passes from poet to poet as part of the inheritance of the power of poetry.

    The goods of the intellect are communal; there is a virtu or power that flows from the language itself, a fountain of man's meanings, and the poet seeking the help of this source awakens first to the guidance of those who have gone before in the art, then the guidance of the meanings and dreams that all who have ever stored the honey of the invisible in the hive have prepared.  (368-69)

Language provides a special conduit for knowledge that is tapped by poetry, and in turn the transference of "virtu" flows from source to source, poet to poet, and is marked by an perpetually unfolding tapestry of poems.  The poet pays tribute to the power of language and poetry itself by invoking those who have gone before and thereby claiming and maintaining a poetic heritage comprised of "what thou lovest well."  The "virtu" that passes from poet to poet is the direct manifestation of "love's infolding."  That is, virtu is the extension of the "crossing of the arcs" (or in this case, the "arts").  And as a site of convergence, poetic virtu unveils not only a trace of what a particular poet loves but also the trajectory of literary history and influence-the genealogy of such "crossings."  Tradition, in this kind light, is not some agonistics of influence but is, rather, the embodiment of love.     Howe has always been exceptionally forthright regarding the writers that she admires, and during an interview with Amy Wray, she carefully delineates her heritage of writers-those that she loves-which includes H.D.

    I am not so arrogant to consider [these writers] precursors; I just feel that they have helped to create a tradition in North American writing where I feel at home.  Herman Melville, Edgar Allen Poe, John Cage, Charles Sanders Pierce, Emily Dickinson, H.D., Jonathan Edwards, Cotton Mather, Ezra Pound, Charles Olson, Marianne Moore, Wallace Stevens, Walt Whitman, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry and William James, Gertrude Stein, Marcel Duchamp, Robert Smithson; all these dead writers, theologians, philosophers and visual artists would be in my anthology. . . (78)

Howe pays homage to many of these writers in her works of literary criticism, but her indebtedness to H.D. is further marked by the use of some rather provocative lines from Trilogy as an epigraph to Singularities-lines that suggest a deep resonance shared between the poetics of both H.D. and Howe. The lines read:

    under her drift of veils, and she carried a book (Trilogy 100)

"She" refers to the Virgin Mary, who appears to H.D. as the poem attempts to invoke the angels. The full passage from "Tribute to the Angels" further illuminates the relationship of Howe and H.D. as well as the role that Mary plays within their poetics. The full passage reads:

    So she must have been pleased with us, who did not forgo our heritage at the grave-edge; she must have been pleased with the straggling company  of the brush and quill who did not deny their birthright; she must have been pleased with us, for she looked so kindly at us under her drift of veils, and she carried a book (Trilogy 100)

Mary embodies divine love, forgiveness, compassion,  mercy, and shelter especially for those who are marginalized, but in H.D.'s hands (and within the deeper context of Howe's writing), she testifies to the power of language, writing, and subjectivity that, coupled with compassion and love, are inscribed within the book she carries.   She is the divine mother/muse who passes her "book" to those poets who do not deny their birthright, nor their heritage.      As such, H.D. and Howe belong to a tradition of poets who perpetuate the virtu(e) of Mary's lessons of compassion and love: both attend to disavowed voices and offer their gift of compassion bodied forth in their poetry; and each conceives of the poem as a means to invoke ghosts, trace the spirit, and nurture humanity's potential for  tenderness and love while simultaneously confronting humanity's immense proclivity for destruction.    And while their poetry presses towards slightly different political ends, which may be, in fact, attributable to their position in history and not ideological differences per se, each recognizes in poetry the power to reify the sanctity of love and peace by offering shelter, a haven against erasure, from the clash of (s)words.

Works Cited Adorno, Theodor.  Negative Dialectics. New York: Seabury, 1973. Albiach, Anne-Marie.  A Geometry. Keith and Rosmarie Waldrop, trans. Providence: Burning Deck, 1998. Cixous, Helene.  Rootprints: Memory and Life Writing.  Eric Prenowitz, trans. New York: Routledge, 1997. Daly, Lew.  Swallowing the Scroll: Late in the Prophetic Tradition with the Poetry of Susan Howe and John Taggart.  Buffalo: Apex of the M, 1994. Davis, Dale.  "Heliodora's Greece" in H.D.: Woman and Poet. Michael King, ed. Orono: National Poetry Foundation, 1986. D.[oolitle] H.[ilda].  Helen in Egypt. New York: New Directions, 1961
----.  Hermetic Definition.  New York: New Directions, 1972.

----.  Trilogy . New York: New Directions, 1973. Duncan, Robert.  "The H.D. Book: Part II, Chapter 10" in Signets: Reading H.D. Susan Stanford Friedman and Rachel Blau DuPlessis, eds.  Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1990. DuPlessis, Rachel Blau.  "Romantic Thralldom in H.D." in Signets: Reading H.D. Susan Stanford Friedman and Rachel Blau DuPlessis, eds.  Madison: University of Wisconsin  Press,  1990. Eliot, T.S. Four Quartets.  New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1948. Fallon, Ruth.  "Speaking with Susan Howe.  The Difficulties 3.2 (1989): 33-42. Friedman, Susan Stanford.  Psyche Reborn: The Emergence of H.D. Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1981. ----.  "Return of the Repressed in H.D. 's Madrigal Cycle" in Signets: Reading H.D. Susan Stanford Friedman and Rachel Blau DuPlessis, eds.  Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1990. Freud, Sigmund.  Civilization and Its Discontents.  James Strachey, trans.  New York: Norton, 1961. Gubar, Susan.  "The Echoing Spell of H.D.'s Trilogy" in Signets: Reading H.D. Susan Stanford Friedman and Rachel Blau DuPlessis, eds.  Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1990. Howe, Susan.  A Bibliography of the King's Book or, Eikon Basilike .  Providence: Paradigm Press, 1989. ----.The Birth-mark: Unsettling the Wilderness in American Literary History.  Hanover:Wesleyan University Press, 1993. ----. The Europe of Trusts.  Los Angeles: Sun and Moon, 1990. ----.  Frame Structures: Early Poems 1974-1979.  New York: New Directions, 1996. ----.  My Emily Dickinson.  Berkeley: North Atlantic Books, 1985. ----.  The Nonconformist's Memorial.  New York: New Directions, 1993. ----.  Singularities .  Hanover: Wesleyan University Press, 1990. James, Henry.  The Novels and Tales of Henry James. Volume 16. New York: Scribner's, 1915. Kristeva, Julia.  "Towards a Semiology of Paragrams" in The Tel Quel Reader.  Patrick ffrench and Roland-Francois Lack, eds.  New York: Routledge, 1998. Melville, Herman. Moby-Dick or, The Whale.   Berkeley, University of California Press, 1979. Olson, Charles.  Selected Writings.  Robert Creeley, ed.  New York: New Directions, 1966. Ostriker, Alicia.  "No Rule of Procedure: The Open Poetics of H.D." in Signets: Reading H.D.  Susan Stanford Friedman and Rachel Blau DuPlessis, eds.  Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1990. Perloff, Marjorie.  Poetic License: Essays on Modernist and Postmodernist Lyric .  Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1990. Pound, Ezra.  ABC of Reading.  New York: New Directions, 1934.

----.  The Cantos of Ezra Pound .  New York: New Directions, 1973. Warner, Marina.  Alone of All Her Sex: The Myth and the Cult of the Virgin Mary.  New York:Vintage, 1976. Wray, Amy.  "Susan Howe: An Interview by Amy Wray."  Notre Dame Review 5 (1997): 74-84.