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
Henry Reed Henry Reed
Henry Reed, ca. 1960



The Heat of the Day: In wartime London, a woman finds herself caught between two men.
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.




Weblogs, etc.

Posts from March 2004

Reeding Lessons: the Henry Reed research blog


New Bibliography

The latest version of the bibliography is up. It contains citations for Henry Reed's publications in journals and periodicals, anthologies featuring Reed's poems, and for reviews and criticism of Reed's poetry and plays.

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1506. MacGregor-Hastie, Roy. "The Poet in His Workshop: No 4—The Great Unclassified." Arena 48 (March 1958): 10-13 [12-13].
MacGregor-Hastie shows great respect for Reed in this series on the state of poetry (but little regard for the poets of the 'Thirties).

14 Things I Learned Researching at Library of Congress

LoC book request
  • Taking the Metro Blue Line from Franconia-Springfield, it's quicker to transfer to the Yellow into L'Enfant Plaza, and get back on the Blue or Orange Lines to Capitol South.
  • Reader Registration is in the Madison Building off Independence Ave., requires everything short of a DNA sample, and offers less-than-helpful research guidance.
  • Get a map.
  • The tunnels connecting the buildings are in the basement, which is the "C" button (for cellar) in the elevators. The Jefferson cloakroom is on "G" (for ground floor).
  • You can take fewer belongings into the main reading room than you can visiting Hannibal Lector. Wear a sweater, 'cause you can't keep your coat.
  • The Reference librarians working the Main Reading Room know their stuff, but the book service attendants at the Central Desk have the inside skinny.
  • Call numbers B-F, N and P are kept in Jefferson; A, G, H, J, L, Q-V and Z are in Adams. You can get books transferred between buildings, but it takes an additional half-hour (on top of 45 minutes). Put in a request at Adams (red slips), walk to Jefferson, place requests there (blue slips, see below), and go back to Adams. Alternately, get everything sent to Adams. better reader-to-photocopier ratio.
  • Bring a ballpoint, because all they have are those ridiculous little library golf-pencils with no erasers.
  • You can pretty much wander the halls at will, and it's easy to get lost looking for a restroom or water bubbler. Their signage sucks (exit → ← exit), but the ceilings in the main halls are color-coded.
  • Rare Books is closed on Saturdays.
  • There's a photocopy card vending machine in the Jefferson cloakroom. Copies are 20¢ per page!
  • Main Reading Room copiers? enter, alcove 7. exit, alcove 8. They have a scanner. Someone will be using the scanner to unselfconsciously image an entire two hundred-year-old dictionary, and there will be a lengthy queue of murderous stares.
  • Ten years ago, I went to the LoC to get copies of uncollected J.D. Salinger short stories that mention Holden Morrisey Caulfield ("Last Day of the Last Furlough," Sat. Eve. Post, 15 July 1944. "Slight Rebellion Off Madison," New Yorker, 21 Dec. 1946). The photocopy card I bought back then still works. Not only did it still work, it still had $7.55 left on it!
  • Don't count on finding a hotdog or pretzel vendor outside. Bullfeathers is close by (but they don't have grape soda).

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.'

The UK is Giving It Away

A couple of weeks ago, I got an email from a gentleman in England, who's writing a book about the poetry of the Second World War. He was looking to find out where the poet and BBC writer Henry Reed had done his basic training, an experience that was the genesis for his most famous poem, "Naming of Parts" (shameless self-link).

I am by no means an expert on Henry Reed, although there's probably only a dozen or so folks on the planet who know more about the guy than me. I'm a Henry Reed-buff. An enthusiast. Fanboy. But an authority? Not hardly, Hardy. Still, I gave my inquiring friend all the info I had, and told him who to go to if he wanted to find out more. There's only so much research one can do, sitting at a laptop in the States. Legwork's required.

But I was curious, too. So I emailed the kind folks at the Royal Logistic Corp Museum, in Surrey, UK. Henry Reed was "called-up" into the Royal Army Ordnance Corps in summer, 1941, and the RLC is an amalgam of a bunch of British Corps, formed in 1993, which combined the Army Catering Corps, the Royal Pioneer Corps, the Postal and Courier Section of the Royal Engineers, and the RAOC. I whipped off a vague but polite email, and proceeded to forget about it.

The library mail comes around this morning, and lo! and behold: I've got a brown paper package return-addressed from England. It contains a rather nice letter from the archivist who handled my request, and a slender volume called A Short History of the RAOC (Brigadier Fernyhough, 1980. Sua Tela Tonanti! "Their Weapons are Thunderbolts."). Best guess at the moment: Reed's battalion was based out of Leicester in 1941. A fact which would seem to be confirmed by this memoir, which places the 3rd Training Battalion in Hinckley, Leicestershire.

How d'ya like that? Send an email to England, get free stuff in the post. Better'n mailing in proofs-of-purchase.

«  RAOC RLC  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.

Newest Additions

Added a new audio file of Robert Pinsky reading "Naming of Parts," an insightful letter into Reed's time in Seattle, and an equally revealing review of the Collected Poems.

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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.

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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