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
Simon, Irène. "English Letters." Revue des Langues Vivantes/Tijdschrift voor Levende Talen 14, no. 3 (May/June 1948): 173-178 [176] (.pdf).

Excerpt from English Letters

Henry REED : A Map of Verona (1)

Mr. Reed's purpose is to suggest more than to describe. With him the object is only the starting point, not the end of his quest. In «A Map of Verona» his thoughts have «hovered and paced»; the «wandering suburb» recalled by the map appears to him as an «unsolved smile on a now familiar mouth»; places are to him «tokens of pain» or «sketches in tenderness». Mr. Reed relates experiences; the «golden stillness, soundless and fathomless» of peaceful love in the morning; the return of dead souls on Christmas Eve, coming unbidden to the door of those they loved; the irreconcilable otherness of selves, divided by a wall «based in death». In «Outside and in» the image of a stranger prowling round the house «so vulnerable and divided» suggests fear or doubt threatening man's peace of mind. The satirical «Lessons of the war», in which the poet ridicules the military jargon, contrast with these preludes; but he soon returns to his previous mood in «The Desert»; the adventures related there suggest the loneliness of man, his quest for truth and peace, his efforts to build a new world, the bewilderment and defeat of the mind «perplexed and eroded» and lured by deceiving visions. In the poems about Tintagel, as well as those about Chrysothemis and Philoctetes, the stories are symbolical of man's experience of the pain of memory, of the illuminating power of love, of redemption. The images convey more than the outward aspect of things, they are related to a mood or to an attitude to life and have therefore a deeper psychological meaning. Thus Chrysothemis describing his mother's words as ropes twisted and turned suggests the enmity between mother and daughter. Philoctetes evokes the ebb and flow of pain, the return of anguish and its passing away as the movement of a procession; the poem closes on a picture of the island, silent as the sun rises and ready to welcome a new life: «and a man plants a tree at daybreak». Though some of the subjects are remote from us, all appeal to our imagination because they are presented as so many aspects of man's experience in life.

(Liège) Irène Simon

(1) Cape. 1946, 3/6.




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