In 1927, Ansel Adams, Albert Bender, and Bertha Damon drove through the US-Mexico borderlands. While Bender was already a prominent patron of the arts, and while Damon was already an established environmental writer, Adams was at a creative crossroads.
During the early period of her work, from her Imagist poetry until around 1927, H.D. experimented with an array of real and imagined techniques for seeing into, casting light onto, and gaining access to otherwise obstructed areas of knowledge and history. Through the artistic affordances of what she variously called the “over-mind” consciousness, “a special layer or stratum of thought,” “a state containing past and future,” and “an intermediate place or plane,” she developed a radically new way to organize and retrieve information: one which, in addition to facilitating wider access to neglected materials, also provided her with the freedom to manipulate and reassemble fragments from literature and history. I propose that we call this method an “interface.” The concept of the “interface”—a collection of media effects that we today associate mainly with digital technology—best captures the many different functions that H.D. developed to gain access to a buried women’s tradition. H.D.’s interfaces are, simultaneously, an expression of her creativity on multiple media platforms and of her feminist critique of women’s secondary status in the literary and historical tradition.
In the editorial statement of the first issue of Rhythm, John Middleton Murry writes: “Our intention is to provide art, be it drawing, literature or criticism, which shall be vigorous, determined, which shall have its roots below the surface, and be the rhythmical echo of the life with which it is in touch.” He would later explain that the magazine treated rhythm as “the distinctive element in all the arts, and that the real purpose of ‘this modern movement’ . . . was to reassert the preeminence of rhythm.”