was an international, multi-language literary review which ran for twenty-five issues between 1948 and 1960. The title means "dark shops"named for the street in Rome where the editorial offices were located. Published twice a year in the spring and fall, the journal offered three- and sometimes five-hundred pages of poetry and prose in Italian, French and English, with alternating issues featuring German and Spanish-language segments. It was edited by Marguerite Caetani
, the Princess di Bassino.
The second issue of 1948 features "Poeti Inglesi e Americani,"
and the table of contents reads like Who's Who:
with W.H. Auden, Ronald Bottrall, Lilian Bowes Lyon, Jocelyn Brooke, Hamish Henderson, Walter de la Mare, Laurie Lee, C. Day Lewis, Norman Nicholson, Kathleen Raine, Henry Reed, W.R. Rodgers, Edith Sitwell, and Vernon Watkins representing Great Britain; and Conrad Aiken, Leonie Adams, Hayden Carruth, E.E. Cummings, Owen Dodson, Richard Eberhart, Edward Field, Marianne Moore, Theodore Roethke, Karl Shapiro, Theodore Spencer, William Jay Smith, Dunstan Thompson, William Carlos Williams, and Richard Wilbur for the Americans.
Reed's contribution is an obscure poem titled "Ars Poetica,"
which (I was disappointed to discover) does actually turn up in the Collected Poems
, as "De Arte Poetica."
The poem is a long meditation on writer's block, regret, and the author's inability to reconcile his past and future. The two versions are not entirely the same, and Reed seems to have made changes following the poem's appearance in print. Jon Stallworthy, in the textual and bibliographical notes for Reed's Collected Poems
, tells us:
de arte poetica
1940). Text from an unidentified cutting among HR's papers, with the title 'Ars Poetae' altered as here, and with numerous (? provisional) autograph revisions in the author's earliesti.e. 1940shand. Lines 53-59 are cancelled, but as no replacement lines are offered they have been restored here.
So, it would seem that quaderno due
of Botteghe Oscure
, secundo semestre
1948, is likely the source of the "unidentified cutting" in Reed's papers
, despite the slight divergence in the titles. This could easily be confirmed if the cutting displays the journal's pagination (pp. 262-64), and Kathleen Raine's "Self," on the reverse of the first page. If Reed was making revisions directly on his copy of the version published in 1948, then his amendations may have gone on into the 1950s.
I put together a quick, side-by-side comparison
of the two versions of Reed's poem, with the 1948 text on the left side, and Reed's revised version from the Collected Poems
on the right. As you can see, everything up to line 36 is exactly the same, he only did away with two couplets, and slightly changed the wording of another to better mate with his changes (.pdf document):
If Reed ever thought of better lines to replace those he "cancelled," they have not been found.
As a multi-lingual literary journal, Botteghe Oscure
provides Italian translations of all the poets in this issue, with "Traduzioni a cura di Salvatore Rosati, A.G., Nina Ruffini, Henry Furst, e G.B"
, in a sort of appendix. Reed's poem is credited as being translated by "A.G." The first issue from 1948 contains an article by the critic and translator Augusto Guidi, so I think it's safe to say he managed the adaptation in Italian.
I'll close here with a few lines from Horace's Ars Poetica
, which surely Reed was referencing, and probably knew by heart:
It's not enough for poems to have beauty: they must have
Charm, leading their hearer's heart wherever they wish.
As the human face smiles at a smile, so it echoes
Those who weep: if you want to move me to tears
You must first grieve yourself: then Peleus or Telephus
Your troubles might pain me: speak inappropriately
And I'll laugh or fall asleep. Sad words suit a face
Full of sorrow, threats fit the face full of anger,
Jests suit the playful, serious speech the solemn.
Nature first alters us within, to respond to each
Situation: brings delight or goads us to anger,
Or weighs us to the ground, tormented by grief....
What makes for a best-selling memoir? Celebrity confessions. Confessions like Mackenzie Phillips reveals in her book, High on Arrival
, that she had been involved in an incestuous relationship with her father. Such as Andre Agassi confessing that his trademark long hair was actually a wig and that he used crystal meth, in his forthcoming autobiography, Open
I confess, I don't actually know what bombshells Reynolds Price may drop in his recent memoir, Ardent Spirits: Leaving Home, Coming Back
(New York: Scribner, 2009). I have my library's copy here, on my crowded coffee table. I haven't read it, yet. Not all of it. But I have found a pertinent piece of juicy gossip.
has been a Professor of English at Duke University for fifty years, and is an award-winning author of fourteen novels. Ardent Spirits
is his third memoir, covering his three years as a Rhodes Scholar at Merton College, Oxford, beginning in 1955, until after his return to North Carolina in 1958, when he begins his teaching and writing careers. Price has never written openly about his sexuality until this most recent volume, where he refers to himself (and others) as "queer."
While at Oxford, Mr. Price made the acquaintance of such literary luminaries as W.H. Auden, Stephen Spender, Cyril Connolly, and Helen Gardnerthen a fellow at St. Hilda's College. Price attended Gardner's lectures on the metaphysical poets, and her seminar in textual editing, and eventually she would sponsor his thesis on Milton's use of the Chorus in Samson Agonistes
This is where I get to the juicy part, the bombshell. In the mid-1930s, Henry Reed had been a student of Gardner's while he was doing his graduate studies at the University of Birmingham. Price writes:
Helen Gardner knew her subjects exhaustively and conveyed her mastery in lucid, but never condescending, lecturesone of the rarest of academic skills. She'd nonetheless been subjected to many of the disappointments of a brilliant woman in what was then distinctly a man's world. Stephen Spender would eventually tell me that he'd heard from W.H. Auden that, when she held a job at the University of Birmingham, Gardner fell in love with the poet Henry Reed. Reed, however, was queer; and Gardner's encounter with that reality led to a psychotic breakdown. In the absence of a good biography, I can't vouch for Auden's story; but it has a likely sound, especially since I slowly became aware of her reservations about many of her male colleagues at Oxford, and more than once I heard her cast strong aspersions at Auden and his friends. As her pupil, of course I was fascinated to hear of those possible early troubles in her life.
Wow. This is not the sort of literary footnote I usually get to post. Still, I'm inclined to say Mr. Price's rumor is simple hearsayan exaggeration as a result of a game of Telephone among poetsconsidering that Reed sent Gardner a copy of Eliot's "East Coker" in the spring of 1940, and that Gardner, in 1942, credited Reed with a point relating to "The Dry Salvages" (see previously
). That hardly sounds like the aftermath of an unrequited love affair and mental breakdown.
1510. Birmingham Post, "The Merchant of Venice," 5 March 1937.
Photograph of Henry Reed with members of the Birmingham University Dramatic Society's (BUDS) production of The Merchant of Venice. Shylock played by Ian Alexander.