About:

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
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Henry Reed, ca. 1960


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Reeding:

Cold Comfort Farm: Sensible Flora Poste moves in with her eccentric country relatives.
The Dog Stars: A man, his dog, and an airplane survive an apocalyptic flu.
The Sparrow: A Jesuit-led mission to a newly discovered planet.


Elsewhere:

Books

Libraries

Weblogs, etc.


Posts from October 2005

Reeding Lessons: the Henry Reed research blog

24.10.2014


Noguchi Filing II

My own attempts to make my files more accessible have stalled for lack of shelf space (and lucre), but Jonny Goldstein is video blogging his efforts to start an open-shelf, Noguchi filing system. Just wait until I get paid, Jonny Goldstein. My Noguchi technique will crush you! (Please allow six to eight weeks for delivery.)

«  Filing  1  »


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.'


School Ties

Stumbled across an interesting lead today, poking and prodding around Google Print. Using Google Print is very much like browsing the index cards in an old-fashioned library card catalog's Subject drawers, except instead of only seeing the phonebook subject headings created by catalogers, there's an index card for every single word and phrase in the English language.

I was looking for information relating to Reed's training in the British army during World War II; specifically, the infamous "lessons" given by non-commissioned officers, on subjects like weapons training, fieldcraft, and self-defense.

What surfaced was a book called The British Army and the People's War, 1939-1945, by Jeremy A. Crang (Manchester University Press, 2000). Crang refers to research undertaken in 1942 by Professor C.W. Valentine, as part of an effort by the War Office to improve the quality of training British servicemen were receiving during the war. Valentine 'conducted a survey of weapons training among his former student-teachers serving in the army' (p. 79)

Among the complaints of these teachers turned soldiers? 'Too much material crowded into a given period.' 'Inadequate use of visual aids.' 'Lack of learning by doing.' 'Mechanical, parrot-like teaching' (emphasis mine), and an 'unnecessary enumeration of parts' (emphasis also mine).

Does that sound like anyone we know? Just a coincidence, of course. Perhaps the allusion is only in Crang's word choice. I'm sure the all servicemen Valentine surveyed made similar protests.

Valentine, however, just happened to be Professor of Education at the University of Birmingham, as well as the director of the university's Department for the Training of Teachers.

The University of Birmingham is, of course, Reed's Alma Mater, and Reed did teach for a year between graduating and getting called up for military service. Interesting.

Google is, of course, making news this week because they're being sued by publishers McGraw-Hill, Pearson Education, Penguin, Simon & Schuster, and John Wiley for violating copyright by scanning the contents of library collections for their Google Library Project. The Association of American Publishers claims Google is 'seeking to make millions of dollars by freeloading on the talent and property of authors and publishers.'

As near as I can figure, Google Print includes, or will include, Google Library Project scans, but also includes books scanned at the express request of publishers. The reference I discovered today makes an excellent argument in favor of these projects. After a simple keyword search, I was able to check the book out from the college's library, and I have it right here, sitting on my coffee table as I write this.



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.


Boffins and Debs

I devoured a small book this evening: Bletchley Park People, by Marion Hill. It was everything Codebreakers (previously blogged here) was not. Where Codebreakers is a technical, scholarly work — dry at times, and impersonal — Bletchley Park People is a collection of warm, human stories from the people who helped break the Axis codes during World War II.

I took waaaaay too much time to read Codebreakers. The book is mostly recollections by cryptanalysts and engineers, and it's full of diagrams of letter squares and bigrams, cribs, relays, and circuits. It was my laundry day reading: I used it as a shield behind which I remained invisible, while sitting in the laundromat, watching my shirts and slacks tumble in the dryer. The only truly useful fact I gleaned from all those loads of laundry was that the Italian Naval Section at Bletchley was absorbed by the Japanese Section after the Italian armistice on September 8th, 1943. Which would explain how Reed, fluent in Italian, ended up teaching Japanese to Wrens for the remainder of the war.

Bletchley Park People, on the other hand, is a collection of more than 200 accounts made by the heart and soul of the codebreaking operation: Wrens and WAAFs, Colossus-tenders and signal-interceptors, lorry drivers and couriers. At its high point in 1945, Bletchley Park had over 2,000 support staff. At a mere 144 pages, laced with poems, cartoons, sketches and photographs, I read it cover to cover in a little more than two hours.

There's no narrative or attempt at storytelling, but the book is broken up into chapters on specific topics, comprised of managable chunks of quotations taken from transcripts and interviews with former Bletchley residents. There's sections on the working conditions, lodgings, food and entertainment, and the atmosphere of secrecy. The stories are personal and anecdotal. Most memorable were the poor ladies who found themselves lodged in cold, damp quarters, and who were forced to hang their freshly-washed underwear on clotheslines strung up over running Colossus computers to dry.

The prefixing author's note warns that "Many accounts have been amalgamated to give a composite picture of what life was like then." This is where I had problems with Hill's book. While the idea of creating a composite might work when telling a fictionalized history from one character's point of view, Bletchley Park People is mostly made of of long, unattributed quotes. There is a complete list of sources' names included as an appendix, but no way to know who said what. Several times I found myself paging back through the book, trying to put two quotes I thought were from the same person together. There is no index.

By far, the best thing about this book are the pictures. Where Codebreakers had mostly diagrams, and the requisite photographs of Bombe machines and Colossus, People is like a family photo album. There are pictures of folks on picnics and taking breaks, posing and mugging for the camera; wartime shots of the Bletchley mansion grounds, Milton Keynes, and the railway station; even cast photographs from plays put on by the drama club. We're even privvy to the handwritten inscriptions on the reverse. (Incidentally, Flickr has a bunch of pictures of the Bletchley Park museum, as it is today.)

I ordered the book sight unseen, in the hopes it might contain a reminiscence of Reed's time at Bletchley. There is a chapter, "Boffins and Debs," which contains stories about some of the more memorable characters who were stationed at Bletchley: the "boffins" being the somewhat eccentric academic dons and mathemeticians, geniuses who worked in their pajamas and (mis)behaved the way only absent-minded professors can. To my delight (and slight dismay), in this chapter there appears:
‘I worked with Henry Read [sic], the poet who wrote the fine poem "The Naming of Parts".’ (p. 63)
No attribution, although it certainly came from one of the sources belonging to The Bletchley Park Trust Archives.



1503. King, Francis. Yesterday Came Suddenly: An Autobiography. London: Constable, 1993. 79-80.
Mentions Henry Reed and Angus Wilson making fun of the Bletchley Park Writers' Circle.


My New Filing Technique is Unstoppable

It's true: I'm envious of people who own their own filing cabinets. I walk into someone's home or office, my eyes are inexorably drawn to their vertical file, and I find myself saying, "Man. That's a nice filing cabinet. Is that real wood, or laminate?"

Currently, I am storing the documents that make up The Bibliography in two plastic hanging file storage boxes: one for Reed as the author, and the other for secondary sources. This system replaced two large accordian files that I was using up until about a year ago (which I had taken the time to découpage with cutout photographs from magazines). I still use the accordians for toting particular documents back and forth to libraries.

Files

With recent acquistions from old newspapers and journals, however, it's painfully obvious that my collection has outgrown the two file boxes, and that is when I began to grow jealous of other people's office furniture. I found myself browsing the furniture aisles in Target and Staples, and even considered upgrading to leather(ette) file boxes.

Then I happened across this webpage, on the Noguchi filing system. Noguchi Yukio is a Japanese economist who has written several books and articles about filing and organization (see Edward Vielmetti's blog, Vacuum, for more on Noguchi). In this system, "Chou Seiri Hou" (Ultra Management Technique), documents are stored in individual envelopes, labelled and arranged according to the date they were created (or last accessed). Recently used files stay at the left, or current, side of the shelf (or drawer), while older, unused files drift to the right, and can be safely removed.

While the file-by-date system isn't helpful for my purposes, the striking image of all those carefully labelled envelopes got me thinking about storing my files on open shelves, instead of a clunky file cabinet. Wouldn't that be great? A wall of manila, yearning to be thumbed through. Where in town can I go to buy a bunch of modular 15" storage cubes?

«  Filing Bibliography  1  »


1502. Reed, Henry. Poetry Reading. The Poet Speaks. British Council recording, no. 1636. 12 March 1970. Co-sponsored by the British Council and the Woodberry Poetry Room in the Lamont Library of Harvard University. TAPE ARCHIVE PR6035.E32 A6 1970x, Woodberry Poetry Room, Houghton Library, Harvard University.
Henry Reed reads a selection of his poems for the British Council series, The Poet Speaks.


Dylan Thomas Reads Aloud

'Someone's boring me. I think it's me.' Dylan Thomas recorded dozens of hours worth of spoken word performances for Caedmon Records, starting with the album A Child's Christmas in Wales and Five Poems, in 1952. To celebrate a half-century of spoken word publishing, Caedmon (now part of HarperAudio) has published an eleven-CD set of the complete recordings, Dylan Thomas Unabridged.

The collection includes his most famous poems, "Fern Hill" and "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night"; prose works such as Adventures in the Skin Trade and Quite Early One Morning; as well as his final play, Under Milk Wood.

For a limited time [actually, since 2002!], Salon.com is offering free downloads of the complete Dylan Thomas Caedmon Collection, with whole discs compressed as .zip files, or as individual .mp3s. (If you're not a registered member, you'll have to sit through an advertisement, but it's more than worth it. Get a day pass.)

Disc 5 of the set contains Thomas reading two poems by Henry Reed: "Naming of Parts," and "Chard Whitlow" (right-click and select "Save as" to download .mp3s). Although I am dismayed they could spell neither Reed's name nor 'Whitlow' correctly. Thomas' interpretation of Reed's poems is superb, if a little heavy on the satire. He even does a passable impersonation of T.S. Eliot.

In a 1955 letter to her brother, Edith Sitwell mentions hearing a recording of Thomas reading "Chard Whitlow":
‘...that naughty Dylan made a record (whilst reciting at Harvard) of Henry Reed's really brilliant parody of "Burnt Norton" in Tom's exact voice! (Don't tell anyone, as it will 'get round'.) Each line ended with an absolute howl of laughter from the audience, but Dylan, with noble dignity, paid no attention to these interruptions... The record has not been published.’ (Selected Letters of Edith Sitwell, edited by Richard Greene, p. 359.)
I can't be sure without checking a good Thomas biography, but I think the link above may be the exact recording Sitwell is referring to.

By the way: this opening speech, "A Visit to America—An Irreverent Preamble", is flipping hysterical.

«  DylanThomas Audio  0  »


1501. Reed, Henry. Interview with Peter Orr. The Poet Speaks. British Council recording, no. 1638. 11 June 1970. Co-sponsored by the British Council and the Woodberry Poetry Room in the Lamont Library of Harvard University. TAPE ARCHIVE PR6035.E32 Z5 1970x, Woodberry Poetry Room, Houghton Library, Harvard University.
Henry Reed speaks with Peter Orr of the British Council, as part of the series The Poet Speaks.


The Salmon Poem

The poet Theodore Roethke died of a heart attack in August, 1963, while swimming in the pool of some friends in Bainbridge Island, Washington. At the time, Roethke was the poet-in-residence at the University of Washington, Seattle, having served on the faculty there since 1947, where he was a defining influence on a generation of Northwest poets. Roethke won the Pulitzer Prize in 1954 for his collection The Waking.

Roethke's sudden death left the University of Washington scrambling to find suitable replacements in their English department. Into this vacuum came Henry Reed, who accepted an appointment as Visiting Professor of Poetry for the winter quarter, 1964, beginning in January of that year.

Reed returned in 1965 to serve as an Assistant Professor of English, which coincided with Elizabeth Bishop's time teaching at the university. According to the interviews in Remembering Elizabeth Bishop: An Oral Biography (Fountain and Brazeau, eds., 1994), Reed and Bishop got along famously, to the point of becoming snobbish cronies who alienated their colleagues. Both of them had a distaste for Roethke: more for the legacy he left with the students at the University, rather than his poetry. Henry Carlile (MA, University of Washington, 1967) remembers:
‘Henry used to say, "If I see the word salmon in another poem..." This complaint was not directed at Roethke so much as at a couple of other Northwest poets Henry disliked. He told me he had written a parody, though he wouldn't show it to me, in which he had managed to use the words clam and salmon thirty-two times. He read it once to another student, but not to me. By this time I think he had already decided it was just a throwaway poem.’
I imagine it was his students' endless imitations of poems like Roethke's "Northwest Sequence" which drove Reed to parody. When I first came across this reference, I paged through Reed's Collected Poems, in the hope that this "salmon and clams" poem had turned up in his papers or notebooks, but I could find no reference to it. Nor is it mentioned in other accounts of Reed's time in Seattle (London Review of Books, 24 October 1991, and 5 December 1991.

If he didn't throw it away, Reed's lost parody of Roethke could certainly stand proudly beside his satirization of other famous writers.

Update: Mr. Carlile comments that it would be inaccurate to call this a 'Roethke parody.' Thank you, sir!

«  Roethke  1  »


1499. Times (London), "Broadcasting Programmes," 18 June 1964, 6.
Reed's translation of Buzzati's play, "The American Prize," premieres tonight on the Third Programme.



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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