EMU Theatre's 'Blades' production features poetry, psychoanalysis

They say opposites attract. It couldn’t be truer than for poet, H.D. (born Hilda Doolittle), and noted psychiatrist Sigmund Freud.

“Let My Mind Flash with Blades,” a new play by Lawrence playwright Dan Born, explores the unlikely relationship between the two 20th century pioneers.

“They were two completely different people,” Born says. “Complete opposites. But H.D. called it the most central relationship of her life.”

An American-born poet, Doolittle came to London when she was 19. There, she met Ezra Pound and became part of the literary movement known as Imagism. Pound was impressed with her and did much to advance her poetry, in addition to hanging the moniker “H.D.” on her.

But during the first World War, her brother died and her marriage broke up. She became depressed. She also struggled with her sexuality, having difficulty coming to terms with the fact she was bisexual.

“Her longtime companion, Briar, knew she was interested in psychotherapy,” Born says. “She was the daughter of an English shipbuilder, so she had the means to contact Freud and pay for his services.”

H.D. became a patient in the 1930s.

“At the time, she was suffering from writer’s block and was troubled by her bisexuality and the fallout from World War I,” Born says. “She reported making a lot of progress under his care.”

But the play, which takes its title from one of H.D.’s poems, isn’t about psychoanalysis or about one of Freud’s more famous clients. It’s about the relationship between these two very different people who became friends.

“These two people help us ask, ‘How do art and science interact?’” Born says. “How do they affect each other in real life?”

Despite his analytical mind, Freud was passionate about art and culture. He grew fond of H.D., and they spoke about much more than her personal problems. Both feared the coming of war as the Nazis grew in power in Germany. The show provides a window into human relationships and how they flourish even under duress.

Born came upon the idea for the play reading “The Mystic Leeway” by Frances Gregg. A member of the Imagists, Gregg knew H.D. well. She, too, was interested in Ezra Pound, and Born uses her as the narrator for his play.

“Reading her book really brought the play into focus for me,” he says. “Because she was also involved with Pound at one point, she has a jaundiced but also affectionate view of H.D.”

“Let My Mind Flash with Blades” is being produced by EMU Theatre. The local avant-garde company specializes in staging work by local playwrights.

The play runs Jan. 18, 19, 25, and 26 in the black box theater at the Lawrence Arts Center. Tickets cost $7 and are available at the door. Curtain is at 7:30 p.m. each night.

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