Documenting the quest to track down everything written by (and written about) the poet, translator, critic, and radio dramatist, Henry Reed.

An obsessive, armchair attempt to assemble a comprehensive bibliography, not just for the work of a poet, but for his entire life.

Read "Naming of Parts."

Henry Reed Henry Reed
Henry Reed Henry Reed
Henry Reed, ca. 1960



I Capture the Castle: A girl and her family struggle to make ends meet in an old English castle.
Dusty Answer: Young, privileged, earnest Judith falls in love with the family next door.
The Heat of the Day: In wartime London, a woman finds herself caught between two men.




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Posts from January 2008

Reeding Lessons: the Henry Reed research blog



Reed's poem "Naming of Parts" makes use of a time-honored rhetorical device called amplification, in particular the use of eutrepismus: the numbering and ordering of parts under consideration. From the Greek, eutrepes, meaning "well-turning." Here's "Naming of Parts" used as an example of this locution, in a 2003 dictionary of poetic terms (Google Book Search).

Henry Peacham, in The Garden of Eloquence (1593), defines eutrepismus thusly:

[I]n latine called Bonus ordo, and Ordinatio, it is a forme of speech, which doth not only number the partes before they be said, but also doth also order those partes, and maketh them plaine by a kind of definition, or declaration.

Peacham also adds the following "Caution": 'It is verie behouefull to take heed that when the parte be numbred in generall, they be not forgotten in the particular prosecution: as he that promised to expound the twelve articles of the Creed, and after could remember but nine.'

So it would seem "Naming of Parts," or at least the sergeant-instructor's lesson, is also an example of a how-not-to.

1530. Radio Times. Billing for "The Book of My Childhood." 19 January 1951, 32.
Scheduled on BBC Midland from 8:15-8:30, an autobiographical(?) programme from Henry Reed.

St. Petersburg is More than Twice as Little as Moscow

I think Zhopa Novy God (MySpace) is my new favorite Russian festive brass band. Their track, "St. Petersburg is More than Twice as Little as Moscow" (YouTube), defines everything I love about Russian festive brass.

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1529. Sackville-West, Vita. "Seething Brain." Observer (London), 5 May 1946, 3.
Sackville-West speaks admirably of Reed's poetry, and was personally 'taken with the poem called "Lives," which seemed to express so admirably Mr. Reed's sense of the elusiveness as well as the continuity of life.'

Eye Witness

In my lengthy, involuntary exile, I was remiss in not linking to an excellent reminiscence of Henry Reed's time as a professor at the University of Washington, Seattle, between 1963 and 1967. Ed, over at I Witness (appropriately enough), has two spectacular posts from October last year, recounting his days as an English major and teaching assistant in Seattle, and how Reed came to befriend him and his family.

Part one, "Henry Reed in Seattle," tells the story of how Reed came to be invited to teach at the University of Washington, and features a cameo appearance by the poet Theodore Roethke. The second part, "Typography of the Heart," has tea with Elizabeth Bishop, the occasional opera, and Reed's eventual return to England.

I, myself, have been trying to remember precisely when I first discovered Henry Reed. It was his "Naming of Parts," of course. It was in high school, inside a giant, all-encompassing Norton Anthology we had to purchase for sophomore year. My copy was used, well-used, with the notes of various previous owners in the margins in pen and pencil, passages underlined. The pages were onion-skin thin, almost transparent, and it seemed like every single page could be peeled to reveal another, like Borges' infinite library book.

We didn't even read "Naming of Parts" in class. I would read ahead whenever I was bored with whomever we were covering: Homer, Conrad, Eliot. I remember reading Auden's "Musée des Beaux Arts," distinctly. It was the first truly modern poem I had been introduced to, and I was staggered that I could learn something so profound from (and about) a painting I had never seen, Brueghel's "Landscape with the Fall of Icarus." Just a few pages beyond Auden was Henry Reed. Anytime I wrote poetry for a creative writing class in the years that followed, I was imitating either Auden, or "Naming of Parts."

It would be ten years before I would look Henry Reed up, again. I had a part-time job at the reference desk of my local public library, and I spent my shifts answering the oddest questions from our patrons, like "Where can I find a list of all the times the word 'breast' appears in The Bible?" After a while I knew enough about how the library worked and how the books were organized to try and answer some of my own questions.

There was nothing about Reed online in those days. Most of the library's databases were still on CD-Rom. In Louis Untermeyer's anthology, Modern American and British Poetry, I learned there were two more poems to Reed's Lessons of the War: "Judging Distances," and "Unarmed Combat." There was also a long, long poem called "The Auction Sale." I must have known that Reed had written other poems, but I hadn't been prepared to find two sequels to "Naming of Parts," and certainly nothing as good as "Judging Distances."

And it would be a few more years before I would learn of Reed's death, after I had taken a job at a university library. There, it was easy enough to go to the Reference section—so much more comprehensive than the one at my old public library—and look him up. So I finally found out that Reed had died back in 1986, about the same time I first read "Naming of Parts." But there are biographies in the reference sections of many libraries which haven't been updated since before Reed died, and several printed since which failed to notice his passing, and you can still find him listed in the subject headings of library catalogs online with a heartening Reed, Henry, 1914 - .

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1528. Manning, Hugo. "Recent Verse." Books of the Day, Guardian (Manchester), 31 July 1946, 3.
Manning feels that 'Mr. Reed has worn thin much of his genuine talent in this direction by too much self-inflicted censorship.'

Rare, But Not So Old

I had a dentist appointment yesterday, for a checkup and cleaning. I've discovered that the more I hate the dentist's office, the better I take care of my teeth. I was in and out, thankfully. I had a couple of hours afterward before Special Collections at the main library closed at 5:45 pm.

There was a reference to Reed in an old issue of the New Review (Google Book Search) that I was hoping would pan into something. The problem with snippet views in Google is that, while you may have a page number, you often don't know which issue of a periodical that page is in. Or the year. All I knew from the link above was that it was during 1976-77.

The New Review is apparently rare enough to warrant being stored in Special Collections' Rare Books. Rare, but not that old. Hardly new, though. I filled out my callslip for both years. Turns out, New Review was a monthly magazine, so I've got almost twenty-four issues to hunt through. Finally, at nearly five o'clock, I found it: June, 1976.

New Review

Reed appears in a book review of Scannell's Not Without Glory and Banerjee's Spirit Above Wars, by Andrew Motion, "Bard's Army." It was a long hour for a short paragraph:

Sexual deprivation also produced a persistent, nagging eroticism in military life Henry Reed captures its wearying innuendo perfectly in 'Naming of Parts', not only in the title, but in the training process it describes:
And this you can see is the bolt. The purpose of this
Is to open the breech, as you see. We can slide it
Rapidly backwards and forwards: we call this
Easing the spring.
Fuller similarly speaks with the voice of Everysoldier when he says 'The photographs of girls are on the wall', and the desolation which lies behind his remark is echoed throughout the work of Lewis. It is a far cry from the war poetry that they were brought up on, and a scrupulous account of the replacement of the admonitory patriot by the disaffected conscript.

Special Collections even made the photocopies for me.

1527. Rosenthal, M.L. "Experience and Poetry." Herald Tribune Weekly Book Review (New York), 17 October 1948, 28.
Rosenthal says Reed shares with Laurie Lee 'that unhappy vice of young intellectuals—a certain blandness of which the ever-simple irony is a symptom.'

Travis Bickle Diet

I'd like to start implementing a strict regimen of diet, exercise, and meditation, based on Robert DeNiro's "Gotta get in shape" monologue from Taxi Driver. The Travis Bickle diet plan (YouTube):

I gotta get in shape. Too much sitting has ruined my body. Too much abuse has gone on for too long. From now on there will be fifty push ups each morning, fifty pull ups. There will be no more pills, no more bad food, no more destroyers of my body. From now on will be total organization.

Without all the Scorsese movie violence, of course. Travis had plenty of motivation, but lacked a suitably constructive outlet. When I'm finished, I'll push over my television set, rise from the ashes of my abusive disorganization, and someone will offer me my own late night infomercial, so I can help others achieve the same results.

This weekend, I'm going to swap out the limping harddrive in my laptop, which I've been nursing along for almost three whole months. I'm backing up data as I write this. Docs. Mail. Bookmarks. Hopefully, a clean slate will restore my levels of productivity and enthusiasm. Cross your fingers, wish me luck. Organizize!

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1526. Blunden, Edmund. "Poets and Poetry." Bookman, n.s., 1, no. 4 (July 1946): 14-15.
Blunden says Reed's Lessons of the War poems 'have captured something of the time-spirit and ambiguity of the recent war in a style of wit and deep feeling united.'

1st lesson:

Reed, Henry (1914-1986). Born: Birmingham, England, 22 February 1914; died: London, 8 December 1986.

Education: MA, University of Birmingham, 1936. Served: RAOC, 1941-42; Foreign Office, Bletchley Park, 1942-1945. Freelance writer: BBC Features Department, 1945-1980.

Author of: A Map of Verona: Poems (1946)
The Novel Since 1939 (1946)
Moby Dick: A Play for Radio from Herman Melville's Novel (1947)
Lessons of the War (1970)
Hilda Tablet and Others: Four Pieces for Radio (1971)
The Streets of Pompeii and Other Plays for Radio (1971)
Collected Poems (1991, 2007)
The Auction Sale (2006)



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