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



I Capture the Castle: A girl and her family struggle to make ends meet in an old English castle.
Dusty Answer: Young, privileged, earnest Judith falls in love with the family next door.
The Heat of the Day: In wartime London, a woman finds herself caught between two men.




Weblogs, etc.

Posts from May 2005

Reeding Lessons: the Henry Reed research blog


The Postman Always Thinks Twice

Usually, uniforms don't do a damn thing for me, but I think I may be developing a crush on my postal carrier. She's an elusive creature, arriving at no appointed time. The fleeting glimpses I've had of her have only been on Saturday afternoons. Today, she managed to come and go while I was out getting coffee.

My postal carrier is work-minded, always looking at the letters in her charge, shuffling them, sorting as she glides along her rounds. She wears glasses. She strikes me as a tough young woman, no-nonsense, matter-of-fact. Perhaps it's just the multiple ear-piercings.

God knows what she must think of me, the person receiving mail at my address. Every couple of weeks, a small, plain, brown-wrapped parcel appears in my mailbox, frequently from England. She must think I have some strange, Britporn fetish (if there is such a thing). Frigid ladies, descended from royalty, with questionable dental hygiene. Bangers and mash. A li'l o' th' ol' Bubble and Squeak, wot?

The reality couldn't be more prosaic. I buy books on the internet. I buy books on the internet like some women buy shoes, or some men buy tools. Not necessarily old books or rare books, but books specific to my affliction: a few journals with articles about Mr. Reed; books in which he's mentioned or cited; a couple of old, mouldering Army manuals. Like the one which arrived today:


Still, there is something magical and romantic about the words Par Avion. I have a history of developing crushes on waitresses, too. It must be the service industries. I can delude myself into thinking they like me, simply because they bring me things. Coffee. Mail. Pizza. Books.

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1535. Reed, Henry. "Talks to India," Men and Books. Time & Tide 25, no. 3 (15 January 1944): 54-55.
Reed's review of Talking to India, edited by George Orwell (London: Allen & Unwin, 1943).

The Safety-Catch

For over two years now, since the last time I overhauled the look and feel of the Henry Reed pages, I've been caught in a struggle between design and accessibility, form versus function. The problem, in a nutshell, is that many visitors could not recognize the only clickable button on the site as an actual, clickable button.

Since the site was for the author of the poem "Naming of Parts," I tried to have a theme involving various rifle parts in silhouette: an image map on the homepage, random images on the content pages, and a "flickable" safety-catch to use to send in a search query:

But this proved confusing for many users. Last month, for example, out of a total of 321 search queries run, no fewer than 72 were for the word "Search," which appears by default in the search box as an identifier.

Folks were just clicking on the little safety-catch to see what it would do, and then flipping and digging through the search results and landing on whatever looked interesting. But since the word "search" appears on every page, the results were more or less random (except that the Search page was ranked highest), and a lot of people just ended up choosing an item from the header navigation row. I was also seeing far too many blank queries: people clinking in the text field and then sending an empty box home with the safety-catch.

I really didn't want to give up the safety-catch button. Sure, it's gimmicky. But it tied the whole theme together. Flick the safety-catch. Never letting anyone see any of them using their finger.

But an excess of between 50 and 100 users a month, failing to use one of the simplest interfaces on the site? That's just too many. So I finally broke down, let go of my stubborn, tenacious fixation on design, and let myself gently down into the icy current of the lowest common denominator:

A button.

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1534. Reed, Henry. "Radio Drama," Men and Books. Time & Tide 25, no. 17 (22 April 1944): 350-358 (354).
Reed's review of Louis MacNeice's Christopher Columbus: A Radio Play (London: Faber, 1944).

The Perils of Interlibrary Loan

Three weeks ago, I put in for an interlibrary loan to get some photocopies of a book review from an old issue of The Listener.

Our Interlibrary Loan department states that getting photocopies may take a week to ten days. Usually, requesting a book or copies from another library takes less time, especially if it's from another in-state library. But ILL makes no promises. We must still rely on the unpredictable services of the U.S. Mail.

Anyway, two weeks after I submitted my request, I started to worry. "How long do I have to wait before I get to complain?" I asked. It's a free service, so complaining about how long it takes is really ungrateful. But ILL re-sent my request to another library.

Duke University's Perkins Library came through, finally. They even emergency-faxed the pages, which made up for some of the lost time. But somewhere along the line my request got manhandled or mistranslated: they missed the journal issue's table of contents, and they copied the title page from the first issue in the volume, not the title page from the issue my article was in. Oh, well. Beggars, choosers, and all that. Still, even I know how to tell the difference, and I know what TOC stands for. And what ever happened to my original request? Was it sent, and is malingering and maloitering under some Post Office conveyor? Did it ever get sent at all? Maybe, eventually, it will turn up, torn, opened and resealed, criss-crossed with tireprints, stamps cancelled and re-cancelled in foreign lands.

Macht nichts. I had to dig up the full citation to fill out the ILL form. So, there you have it. The long, perilously dull, but true, story of the return of a very favorable review.

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1533. Friend-Periera, F.J. "Four Poets," Some Recent Books, New Review 23, no. 128 (June 1946), 482-484 [482].
A short review calls A Map of Verona more pretentious than C.C. Abbott's The Sand Castle; influenced by Eliot, Auden, MacNeice, and Day Lewis.

Point of Balance

I think every staff member working at the main library noticed I was there late this afternoon, and not at work. I snuck out an hour early to pick up a couple of books waiting for me from offsite storage. Everybody said hi, even the head of Access Services, whom I was disturbed to discover could recognize me even hunched over a table, pouring over a book, from behind.

I had a couple of leads to run down, tangential, but leads nonetheless. An article in an old British Museum Quarterly on the papers of Sydney Carlyle Cockerell, bibliophile and former director of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, from 1908 to 1937. Reed wrote a letter to Cockerell in 1955, but I haven't found any mention of its contents anywhere in his collected letters. The article in the BMQ shed no light.

I also had an obscure reference to something the poet John Ciardi calls the fulcrum of a poem, the point of balance where a change in attitude or tone takes place, which, Ciardi argues, is always accompanied by a change in structure or technical handling. (Oh, terrific: Poets.org changed their site organization again, and all my links now point to a big, fat 404.)

"Point of balance" is an interesting phrase, since it also refers to the point on a rifle where the weight of the weapon is evenly distributed between the butt and muzzle. In a shooting stance, the point of balance should ideally fall midway between the shooter's hands, making aiming and firing easier and more accurate. The point of balance is mentioned in "Naming of Parts," and I wondered if Ciardi may have taken the phrase from Reed's poem.

After reading the chapter in How Does a Poem Mean? on "The Poem in Countermotion," it would appear, however, that Ciardi was just taking the metaphor of a fulcrum to its logical end, and he was genuinely attempting to describe a poem's silent tipping point, something like the volta or "turn" in a sonnet, after which a realization or resolution is reached. The point between the fourth and fifth stanzas of "Naming of Parts" is a good example of this, where the two, duelling voices of Army and Spring finally merge.

Reading How Does a Poem Mean? (or any scholarly work on the study of poetry) makes me feel a little like Agent Starling visiting Dr. Hannibal Lecter, and I'm a bit out of my depth and on my guard.

"What does it do, this pome you seek?"

"Uh, well. See, it's about mending a stone wall...."

"No. That is in-cidental. First principles..." and Ciardi (or whoever) launches into a rail on Marcus Aurelius, leaving me behind, standing in a cloud of my own ignorance.

And apparently, John Frederick Nims makes a similar point about an "emotional fulcrum." What need does this poem serve by turning? What is its nature?

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1532. Vallette, Jacques. "Grand-Bretagne," Mercure de France, no. 1001 (1 January 1947): 157-158.
A contemporary French language review of Reed's A Map of Verona.

Library Duck

Library Duck

I am the Library Duck. Quack quack! Put me on any shelf here, but please don't make me go!

Library Duck

A little-known tradition in our library is the Library Duck. I think, technically, it's a goose, but small matter. It's obviously a library duck, since it's reading a book. The pom-pommed hat is sort of inexplicable, though. The note on the bottom was written on the back of a ticket stub from Lost in Translation, so the Library Duck is hardly what you'd call a "time-honored" tradition. But I honored the sentiment: rubber-glued and re-taped the label, and put the Library Duck back in the stacks.

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1531. Henderson, Philip. "English Poetry Since 1946." British Book News 117 (May 1950), 295.
Reed's A Map of Verona is mentioned in a survey of the previous five years of English poetry.

Postcards from Henry

Up this morning, showered, and strolled down my dead-end end street to the 7-11 for coffee and a Sunday New York Times. It's warmer this morning than it has been so far this spring, 70 already at 7:30 a.m. and I'm tempted to finally reverse the vents in the apartment open them on the second floor and close them up downstairs and turn on the air conditioning.

I'm listening to an encore webcast of last night's A Prairie Home Companion, an encore of a rerun. I just want to hear the Guy Noir sketch. Plus, I don't why I buy the NYT on Sundays. I only read the Styles section, Arts and Leisure, the Book Review and Magazine. Three dollars' worth of a seven dollar paper. The rest is just news-news, and I either pitch it, or use it to wash the windows.

Yesterday, I followed up on cataloguing some records from the Location Register of 20th-Century English Literary Manuscripts and Letters. Published in print as two (large) volumes in 1988, the Register is now available online as a searchable database (using Sirsi's iBistro interface, no less), including updated records and new accessions from 1988 to 2003.

A quick search for "henry reed" pulls up 23 records, which includes autograph drafts of poems, notes for plays, and personal letters from Reed to such notable figures as Sydney Carlyle Cockerell, T.S. Eliot, E.M. Forster, L.P. Hartley, Emyr Humphreys, Rona Laurie, Kingsley Martin, and the actor John Phillips (who was also born in Birmingham the same year as Reed).

The Location Register is a powerful tool because it includes descriptions for individual items, not just entire collections. This is handy-dandy for locating material for a minor-Canon figure like Reed. For instance, nowhere does the University of Birmingham's description for the Papers of Henry Reed include this detail from the LocReg:
Author: Reed, Henry, 1914-1986.
Title: Letters and postcards from Henry Reed to Michael Ramsbotham.
Date: 1944-1985.
Physical extent: 77 items.
General note: With 2 postcards from Reed, 1 to Col. & Mrs H.W. Ramsbotham and 1 to Mr. S. Marangos.
Call number: In Henry Reed papers, 9/1&3
Who, or what, is "Mr. S. Marangos"?

1530. Radio Times. Billing for "The Book of My Childhood." 19 January 1951, 32.
Scheduled on BBC Midland from 8:15-8:30, an autobiographical(?) programme from Henry Reed.

Lights Out, Uh-huh

I find myself gloriously and unexpectedly free today. The library where I work has just begun an expansion project, and today is our first construction-assisted, paid vacation day. Somebody cut an utility line, and the power company had to disconnect the library from the grid to keep us from asploding, and to begin repairs. Hooray! A no-snow snowday in May! I have (almost) no idea what to do with myself.

Since the initial de-electrification happened yesterday afternoon (unelectrification? diselectrification?), I suspected this might happen, and I rose early today to prepare. Not only did I need to make frantic phonecalls to wave off my staff before they left for work ("Abort! Abort!"), but I had hopes I'd be able to visit the university's Rare Books collection (which is on main campus and still has electricity).

So, having learned my lesson with a previous visit to a library's Special Collections, I packed everything: laptop, digital camera, and pencils of varying weights and eraser-heights. Loaded for bear, I waited patiently for the doors to open, and found myself all alone, with the entire Rare Books collection at my beck (and call), and the whole staff to take care of me, just me, at nine a.m.

These last few nights after work I've been flipping through small press literary magazines from wartime Britain, searching for Henry Reed's name in Tables of Contents, with no results. (Not surprisingly.)

Kingdom Come: The Magazine of Wartime Oxford, is in Rare Books. The very nice staff brought me the collection's entire run, about seven issues from the years 1939-1943. The magazine started out very tiny, printed on fine paper in a format not much bigger than your palm, and then soon blossomed into a large magazine-sized rag, with bright, primary-colored covers: red, green, blue.

Inside, there were all the names I've grown familiar with: Spender, Read, Treece, Heppenstall. But no Henry. I resolved myself to merely requesting a photocopy of the poem "King Mark," from another journal, Orion: A Miscellany, edited by Rosamond Lehmann.

The unbound periodicals and journals in Rare Books are tied together with a sort of ribbon, soft and velvety, acid-free. This keeps all the issues together in pile. So when the staff fetched the volume I requested (1945), I actually got the pile of four volumes. After slipping bookmarks into the pages I needed in the '45, and filling out a photocopy request form, I peeked at the other three volumes.

There, in Orion 4, Autumn 1947, was a fifteen-page Henry Reed article on James Joyce: "Joyce's Progress." Lightning bolt! Thunderstruck!

The length of the article ruled out transcribing it into Notepad (as do my typing skills), but now I must wait a week to ten days for a photocopy. The semester's almost over, and there's no student help to do the grunt work. Rare Books will take digital images for you, but they won't allow you to use your own camera, drat.

And I forgot to look for an "About the Contributers" page!

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1529. Sackville-West, Vita. "Seething Brain." Observer (London), 5 May 1946, 3.
Vita Sackville-West speaks admirably of Reed's poetry, and was personally 'taken with the poem called "Lives," which seemed to express so admirably Mr. Reed's sense of the elusiveness as well as the continuity of life.'

Laundry Days

Yesterday was Laundry Day. Today, today is also a laundry day.

I may or may not do actual laundry on Laundry Day. I have a tendency to wear some items twice in a given laundry cycle: shirts and slacks, anyway. Socks? Never. Socks are one-day-wear items. Undershirts? One day. Perhaps this is the norm for single, semi-professional males who don't earn enough to justify having a dry cleaner. I don't know.

Laundry Days are usually Saturdays and Sundays, spent cleaning house or taking care of various sundry errands, both in the real world and online. I vacuum, I brush the cat, I backup the website in case I do something stupid. I go over the little lists of reminders and "To dos" that I have jotted down or emailed myself over the course of a workweek. Links to check, resources to check out. "Buy stamps." "Clean blinds." That sort of thing.

Yesterday, the laundry list included weeding through a pile of printouts which had been languishing unread on my desk. My desk here in the apartment happens to be in the kitchen, and the printout pile was beginning to look like an overused drink coaster, looped with rings of coffee and red wine and waterstains.

My big discovery was in a record I had printed out for the Papers of Henry Reed collection at the University at Birmingham, England. I'd known about the collection before, but I had never seen this description displayed this way. (at the Archives Hub, a catalog of more than 90 UK university and college collections. Did you know that the "ac" in the ac.uk domain is for "academic"? Finally figured that out). The text is from the University of Birmingham Information Services' Research Libraries Bulletin, no. 6 (Autumn 1998).

The biography does state that Reed was a drill instructor during his service in the RAOC, which is incorrect. Reed was but a lowly Private. But that's a small matter.

I was thrilled to notice that the "Scope and Content" section names four poems by Reed which were not included (or not selected for inclusion) in the 1991 Collected Poems: "The Candidate," "The Summer Exam," "Liberal Rhymes for Liberal Times," and "Voyage Autour de ma Chambre" (Voyage Around my Room?). I rank this right up there with the recent sighting of the presumed-to-be-extinct Ivory-Billed Woodpecker. Unpublished Henry Reed poems!

Also mentioned is a Masters thesis on critical editing, which apparently made use of the collection's correspondence and letters written to Reed. I'd love to get my mitts on that dissertation. Next Laundry Day.

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1528. Manning, Hugo. "Recent Verse." Books of the Day, Guardian (Manchester), 31 July 1946, 3.
Manning feels that 'Mr. Reed has worn thin much of his genuine talent in this direction by too much self-inflicted censorship.'

Googling Print

SearchEngineWatch has an article this week, "Going Under Cover With Books Search Tools" — about accessing books online with Google Print in which I think the author gets one or two things wrong.

The "Here's how" section suggests narrowing a search to Google Print material by inserting the word "books" before your Google search words or phrase. Inserting the singular "book" is the preferred method, however; "book" works just as well, and saves typing dozens of extra Ss. That's what you do when you're scouring a resource: you type endless combinations of keywords and phrases in quotes into the search box.

To get to a Google Print search box, the article suggests picking one of the displayed results, and then scrolling to the bottom of the first page where the search box appears. Far better than doing all that scrolling, Google displays a "Book results for..." link, right at the top of your original search (with "book") result, which links right to all the Google Print results — with excerpts — and a Print-only search at the top. No need to cut through the backyard of a (possibly) useless result.

The article does have a good list of "[a] few things to keep in mind" when searching Google Print, and I love the quick and dirty "Add your search terms to this URL":


I also discovered today that Google Print has a Recursive Book Factor of eight (RBF8):


"book book"

"book book book"

"book book book book"


"book book book book book book book book"

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1527. Rosenthal, M.L. "Experience and Poetry." Herald Tribune Weekly Book Review (New York), 17 October 1948, 28.
Rosenthal says Reed shares with Laurie Lee 'that unhappy vice of young intellectuals—a certain blandness of which the ever-simple irony is a symptom.'

Fossil Book Reviews from the Forties

I recently purchased an old, six drawer library card catalog on eBay. It's missing a couple of finger-pulls, but other than that it's in pretty decent shape. Still had the metal followers in all the drawers. This produced a remarkably vivid sense-memory: the feeling of tabbing through a drawer full of cards with my fingertips. I don't think I've actually used a physical card catalog since around 1990.

One thing about starting to re-organizize, notes and cites I had written ages ago floated to the top. The database is too large to browse properly, even broken down into subjects, and it needs more sorting options (like by date).

I came across a reference to a book review of Reed's A Map of Verona, from a 1946 Listener that I had never followed up. All I had was a date and a page number. No volume, no issue number. No title. I didn't even bother to write down where I had originally found the review cited. (Not noting sources and cross-references is a bad habit I cannot seem to break.)

It was so easy, I don't know why I hadn't tried to look it up before: Listener v. 35, no. 906 (23 May 1946): 690. "Book Chronicle." And in I put for a photocopy through interlibrary loan. We'll see, but that may be the last review from the Forties that I didn't already have. Which may be why I was putting it off: there can only be so many secondary sources left, and everything else is just third-order.

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1526. Blunden, Edmund. "Poets and Poetry." Bookman, n.s., 1, no. 4 (July 1946): 14-15.
Edmund Blunden says Reed's Lessons of the War poems 'have captured something of the time-spirit and ambiguity of the recent war in a style of wit and deep feeling united.'

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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