Critical and biographical information on Henry Reed, World War II British poet, critic, translator, and radio dramatist — author of "Naming of Parts"
Henry Reed, poet and radio dramatist
The Poetry of Henry Reed Homepage
Rago, Henry. "Four Poets." Commonweal 47, no. 14 (16 January 1948): 353-354 [353].

Excerpt from "Four Poets"

A Map of Verona. Henry Reed. Reynal. $2.50.

"A Map of Verona" is the first American publication of the young English poet, Henry Reed. Only a few short lyrics in this volume are what could be called mature poetry, but the excellences either of intention or of partial achievement in most of his writing are worth some respectful attention. "Lessons of the War," a series of three poems, seems to me the most finished work in these pages. "Naming of Parts," the first of the three, is extremely deft and almost insidious with its pathos; "Judging Distances" and "Unarmed Combat," the other two, are nicely conceived but marred by faults which we can see more closely elsewhere in his work. One fault is wordiness, as in these lines from "Outside and In":

A house so vulnerable and divided, with
A mutiny already inside its walls
Cannot withstand a siege.

Another fault is a tendency to accept the trite compromise:

And I woke sick, and held by another passion,
In the icy grip of a dead, tormenting flame.

(I hasten to say that the more grotesque fault which happens to be in this last line—the absurd picture, if you can see it at all, of a dead flame with an icy grip—is not at all typical.) Finally, his poems lose freshness and authenticity by following the Eliot metric a little too closely:

For waking in the dark this morning, I woke to that mystery
Which we can all wake to, at some dark time or another:
Waking to find the room not as I thought it was
But the window further away, and the door in another direction.

Here the echo is so distinct that one hears Eliot's sense rather than Reed's. (It is unfortunate, aside from the question of cheapness, that Reed thought to include a parody of Eliot, "Chard Whitlow"; some of the lines are indistinguishable from Reed's more sober efforts.)

The longer poems, particularly "Tintagel" and "Triptych," have beautiful moments in them—"Iseult la Belle" in "Tintagel" is a lovely, liquid thing—but neither poem has a sufficiently fresh intelligence to sustain its full length.




Page last modified: 01 October 2016