In 1995, I was working at my local public library, checking books out and in at the circulation desk, and doing basic reference work. In the course of helping high school students and book club readers find critical and biographical information about their chosen authors, I decided I would apply the same basic research skills toward satisfying my own curiosity, and look up a favorite poet of mine: Henry Reed.
What I found was slim pickings. The library's sets of Contemporary Authors
and Something About the Author
didn't offer anything, and all I turned up were some lesser-known (but still excellent) poems in popular anthologies. This was just on the brink of the Internet revolution (at least in the rural outback of Virginia where I was living at the time), and most databases were less-than exhaustive, and still being published on CD-Rom.
Fast-forward two or three years, and I had taken a job at a university branch library, with full access to a growing world of online databases. I found a few biographical and bibliographic entries in reference works. I was saddened by the discovery of Reed's 1986 obituary in The Times
. I applied for my first credit card, for the express purpose of taking advantage of the marvel of ordering books online. Even then, locating obscure, university press titles wasn't easy, and my first Reed-related purchases were from Blackwell's in the UK.
By the eve of the 21st century, there was still scant information about Henry Reed online. Just a few copies of the same two or three poems, posted to poetry forums and online collections. I thought to myself: if I put all the information I had collected on the Web, I would be able to access it from anywhere in the world with a computer and an Internet connection. So I taught myself some basic HTML, reserved a ridiculously oblique domain name, and The Poetry of Henry Reed website was born.
While not literally confined to an armchair, I do spend an inordinate and unhealthy amount of time on my lumpy, second-hand couch, in front of a television tuned to one of two PBS stations, plugging words and phrases into Google Book Search, in the hopes of turning up some pearl or gem relating to Reed, so that I might contribute something to future scholarship. Occasionally, I do leave the apartment to visit actual brick-and-mortar libraries that have relevant books or journals, but only in the most severe cases, which can be considered Library Emergencies.