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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.

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Henry Reed, ca. 1960


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Cold Comfort Farm: Sensible Flora Poste moves in with her eccentric country relatives.
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The Sparrow: A Jesuit-led mission to a newly discovered planet.


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Posts from January 2011

Reeding Lessons: the Henry Reed research blog

22.12.2014


Two Short Reviews

Much to my surprise, dragging the seemingly bottomless, boundless ocean of Google Book Search continues to net contemporary criticism of Reed's A Map of Verona: Poems, published in March of 1946. The two most recent catches are short critiques found schooling amidst and amongst much larger book review sections in the magazines Britain To-day and John O'London's Weekly.

The latter was the first to appear, in June 1946: "Poets Worth Praising," by Richard Church, author of the World War I poem, "Mud" ('Twenty years ago / My generation learned / To be afraid of mud. / We watched its vileness grow, / Deeper and deeper churned / From earth, spirit, and blood'). In addition to Reed's book, Church reviews The Golden Year of Fan Cheng-Ta by Gerald Bullet, Talking Bronco by Roy Campbell, London Saga by Stowers Johnson, The Voyage by Edwin Muir, and Vita Sackville-West's The Garden. While he devotes little more than three paragraphs to A Map of Verona, Church's evaluation of Reed is unequivocally positive:

John O'London's

He appears as a man of wry, almost sly, humour, endowed with a shrewd critical mind that gives his first work a matter-of-factness wholly acceptable to the fastidious reader's palate. In that technique of dry statement, sometimes almost categorical, you discover a highly individual poetic faculty. It gives his work a stillness that is startling, like the skies in Dali's queer pictures.

A few months later "A Poet of Sensibility" appears, in the October, 1946 issue of Britain To-day. I had brief hopes that this review had been penned by the pre-eminent critic and scholar, Kathleen Raine (Raine's article "English Poetry Since 1939" appears in this issue), but it turned out to have been written by an obscure poet and critic, A.C. Boyd. Boyd is quick to mention Reed's debt to Eliot, but doesn't find Reed slavish, as many other critics do:

Britain To-day

We know of Mr. Reed's admiration for T.S. Eliot and Edith Sitwell, but he is no slavish imitator of either of them, indeed his talent is unusually original and spontaneous. For sheer invention we can turn to Lessons of the War, in which the poet has reproduced the gabble of the sergeant-instructor on Unarmed Combat and so forth and shot it through with most sensitive observations and a lightning play of wit—a seriocomic fantasia which is a joy to meet.

There is passing mention of "Chard Whitlow," and praise for both the early poems as well as the Antigone monologues, but Boyd concludes by extolling Reed's series of four poems on the Arthurian legend of Tristan and Iseult:

The dramatic monologue, the recounted allegory, here passion, irony, and a critical intelligence and boundless curiosity to explore experience can find full play. But in his use of what one might call the inflected 'voice' he is never extravagantly rhetorical, in fact he speaks often enough in a near-prose murmur; he can be deliberately ingenuous or rise to a tragic intensity all in the same poem. He has equal command of the long, modulated sentence as of the more limpid, short line. Everything in this small book is of interest, but the haunting beauty and sweep of imagination of the Tintagel poems is something to be thankful for in these days of austerity.

Boyd himself is obscure enough that he doesn't even rate his own Wikipedia page. Almost all I can discover about him comes from a 1939 issue of Denys Kilham Roberts' Penguin Parade, which features Boyd's poem, "Death of a Poet" ("Cover the frost-bitten features, the twisted hand; / Straighten the shattered limbs, / And the eyes, icicled, that could not weep"). The contributors' notes state he was born in 1902, and that he was raised in India, where his father was a judge. He was educated at University College, London, and held a diploma in librarianship.

According to A Companion to Pablo Neruda (2008, p. 164), Boyd and his architect brother Andrew were the first to translate the Chilean poet's works into English, Andrew having befriended Neruda in Sri Lanka (then Ceylon), around 1936.

«  Updates Criticism  0  »


1505. Orwell, George. "Young Writers." Review of New Writing and Daylight (Summer 1943), edited by John Lehmann. Spectator (30 July 1943): 110.
Orwell says of "The End of an Impulse," Reed's criticism of the Auden-Spender school of poetry, 'Henry Reed's essay contains some valuable remarks on the dangers of group literature.'


Blurb In The Bell

My excursion to retrieve a review of Happy as Larry was sweetened by an unexpected dividend: a brief review of Reed's A Map of Verona in the June, 1946 issue of The Bell. The Irish poet (and lifelong diplomat) Valentin Iremonger reviews collections by Lawrence Durrell, Edwin Muir, and Geoffrey Grigson:

Checklist

After the acrobatics and posturings of the New Romantic poets in England during the last few years, these books come as a welcome relief. None of these poets is committed to any school, which means that their experiences may be interpreted by them without any preconceived notions as to the significance that must be extracted from them or the slant with their imagery must take. Furthermore, their work is distinguished by a fundamental brain-work (an all-too-rare thing in contemporary verse) and a general acknowledgment that a poem is an intellectual structure, that 'prayer and fasting,' so to speak, are essentials for the poet. [...]

Henry Reed's is one of the most impressive first volumes I have seen for some time. His shorter lyrics (with the exception of 'The Wall') are not very distinguished but there are four long poems in the volume which are really first rate achievements. The poems on two characters from Sophocles, Chrysothemis and Philoctetes show an intuitive understanding of experiences that are among the commonest known.
V.I.
[pp. 263-265]

«  Criticism Bell  0  »


1504. Ludwig, Jennifer. "Lessons of the War: Henry Reed." In vol. 2, Literature of War: Experiences, edited by Thomas Riggs. Detroit, MI: St. James Press, 2012. 359-361.
A relatively lengthy assessment of Reed's influences, position, and the impact resulting from his famous sequence of poems, Lessons of the War.



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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