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
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Gordon, Jr., Ambrose. "Six British Writers Under American Wrappers." Furioso 3, no. 3 (Spring 1948): 65-66.

A MAP OF VERONA, by Henry Reed. Henry Holt [sic], 1947.

Excerpt from Six British Writers Under American Wrappers

So much for the novel. The most brilliant, successful, and individual, and at the same time the most traditional, of these six English volumes is a collection of poems under the title of "A Map of Verona" and written, its jacket and cover tell us, by Henry Reed. Also, according to the jacket, this is a first book, and there are the usual blurb encomiums, only for once — almost miraculously — they seem to be justified. This is an unusual book.

It is traditional first because it is consciously imitative, Whole [sic] passages from the letters of Rimbaud to his mother are paraphrased and the first and title poem ends with a literal translation of lines by Rimbaud given earlier in the French


original as an epigraph. Somewhat more audacious is a very close approximation to the method, metric, and theme of Andrew Marvell's To His Coy Mistress — and somehow Reed gets away with it. There are constant allusions and parallels with writers as unexpected as Frost.

The subjects of his poems are also traditional. Tristram, the tragedies of Sophocles, "Moby Dick." But always, with both subject and method, the past is used to focus and interpret present experience; the poems emerge as sharp and individual, and with quite unexpected power.

Yet all this skill teeters on the brink of an absurdity: the open, impudent, accomplished, and completely undisguised resemblance to some of the earlier, but mainly to the most recent, poetry of T. S. Eliot. Consider these lines about the death of Agamemnon:

                                                                             I did not see
My father's murder, but I see it now always around me,
And I see it shapeless: as when we are sometimes told
Of the heroes who walk out into the snow and blizzard
To spare their comrades' care, we always see
A white direction in which the figure goes
And a vague ravine in which he stumbles and falls.
My father rises from a bath of blood,
Groping from table to chair in a dusky room
Through doorways into darkening corridors,
Falling at last in the howling vestibule.
This is just one step from parody, a step Mr. Reed at one point takes. The following is from Chard Whitlow (Mr. Eliot's Sunday Evening Postscript):
As we get older we do not get any younger.
Seasons return, and today I am fifty-five,
And this time last year I was fifty-four,
And this time next year I shall be sixty-two.
And I cannot say that I should care (to speak for myself)
To see my time over again — if you call it time:
Fidgeting uneasily under a draughty stair,
Or counting sleepless nights in the crowded tube.
This is parody. Excellent. But parody of whom? How are we to know the Eliot from the Reed?



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