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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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«  Posts from 02 October 2005  »

Reeding Lessons: the Henry Reed research blog

29.8.2014


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 Notation  »

Henry Carlile: "This poem was NOT a parody of Roethke. It was a parody of one of Roethke's colleagues at the UW, who shall go unidentified here."

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What is Henry Reed's first name?

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.'



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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