H.D., tarot, & occluded vistas


Above is the first card of the Mountain Dream Tarot created by Bea Nettles in 1975–the Fool, a card of fortunate beginnings and free spirits. I don’t think ANYONE has ever described me as a “free spirit.” But the digitized images of this deck were a lucky chance find as I was doing on online search of the Beinecke Library’s holdings, which is part of looking ahead to summer.

In late January professors at my college apply for summer research funding, and the proposal is always a bit of speculative fiction. I absolutely will write and revise next summer, and I know what I would be working on if I had time now: revising the manuscript of the next novel; continuing to build a plan for a book about taking modernism personally, a sequel or prequel to Poetry’s Possible Worlds. You have to follow the spark when you write, though, always asking yourself which project suddenly compels you or feels stuck; there are also career vagaries, a bolt of opportunity, maybe. I don’t expect the latter. I applied for one grant and one residency this year and was rejected on both counts. But there’s still work to do and pleasure in doing it.

I was searching “tarot” at the Beinecke website in relation to their H.D. archive. H.D. was a poet, memoirist, film critic, and novelist whose work I began to read avidly as an undergraduate, finding in her example so much I wanted to be and do. I imaginatively mapped her network onto my friend group; when I worked on a dissertation chapter about her, I kept a postcard of a Man Ray photograph of H.D. on my wall (the full version of the detail here), and when I glimpsed it out of the corner of my eye, I identified with her so much that I sometimes took her image as my own reflection.

I realized during the fall term that there was a recent book on H.D.’s intense relationship with the occult: Astral H.D. by Matte Robinson. I have an idea for a hermit crab essay that depends in part on what kind of tarot deck H.D. used. Could it be among her papers at the Beinecke? The finding aide says the collection contains astrological charts. Robinson’s book is very useful, but I need to triangulate with an older book, Susan Stanford Friedman’s Pysche Reborn, as well as read a lot of other materials published since I was last deep in H.D.-land. Anyway, no luck so far, but Robinson describes H.D.’s readings of Jean Chaboseau, who designed a deck that’s partly pictured below, so maybe his? I can’t find a duplicate deck of Chaboseau’s; his book about tarot is rare and might not exist in translation. In other words, these hermetic materials are hidden from me, so far. My research into H.D.’s occult research is getting very meta.

But I’m about to cut off this poking around because we’re going to INDIA Thursday for a 12 day trip. I’ve long been sorting out immunizations, visas, what to pack, etc., but at least my grades are in, so I can now get a jump on January tasks. The new term will start less than a week after I return in early January.

We took yesterday off for a short post-grading hike in a wetlands park. I’m appreciating the winter palette perhaps more than usual because I’m about to temporarily depart it. I’d also never done this particular walk with the leaves down and didn’t realize the upper trail had mountain views. Even though plenty of 2023 is occluded from sight, it’s nice to glimpse or at least imagine a vista beyond this school year’s work grind.

One more 2022 post coming before I leave, I think–the year in reading.


3 responses to “H.D., tarot, & occluded vistas”

  1. I’m late to this post, but loved it! It’s funny to read about your relationship to H.D. over the years as I feel like my own longings toward and identifications with her are still in their infancy. But even still I share the feeling. There’s a way that interest in H.D. makes a lot of sense to me as an aspiring scholar, but the rest of it feels more personal. Thinking about her relationship to Ezra Pound feels devastating for obvious reasons, her time under Freud intimidating for some reason, and her bisexuality, well that just feels very close to home. At the risk of sounding too pretentious, I’m sure there’s some queer affect theory out there that might explain part of why she makes me feel the way she does. I suppose there is always tarot for that too though lol. Do you have any writing about H.D. out there, scholarly or otherwise? I’d love to read it if you do.

    Liked by 1 person

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