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
Read "Naming of Parts
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.
Cold Comfort Farm: Sensible Flora Poste moves in with her eccentric country relatives.
Posts from June 2007
Here you go: a synopsis of Henry Reed's poem, "Sailor's Harbour
," translated into lolcat
, image macro-format. A lolreed, if you will:
That about sums it up, I think. Also, I would like to point out, I totally
had this idea before Chaucer's "I Can Hath Cheezburger?
" post, but I waffled (or perhaps ROFL'd, if you prefer).
1511. William Phillips, and Philip Rahv, eds. New Partisan Reader: 1945-1953 London: Andre Deutsch, 1953. 164-171.
Collects Reed's poem, "The Door and the Window," published in the Partisan Review in 1947.
Hey! BBC Radio 4 has a new half-hour situation comedy coming out. What's the premise, you ask? Well, it's about a wacky bunch of codebreakers stationed at Bletchley Park
during World War II. How's that sound? The show is called "Hut 33," after one of the (fictitiously numbered) pre-fab buildings where the cipher-breaking and translation work was done. From the BBC's website
Set in Bletchley Park, in 1941, this sitcom focuses on three code-breakers forced to share a draughty wooden hut as they try to break German ciphers. Unfortunately they bicker constantly.
Archie, a Geordie socialist, must now work with Charles, the Tory snob who rejected him from Oxford for wearing brown shoes. Gordon, the child prodigy, tries in vain to act as peacemaker but they won't listen to someone who still wears short trousers.
The program stars Robert Bathurst, Tom Goodman-Hill, Olivia Colman, and Fergus Craig. The show's author, James Cary
, has a shot of a "memo
" for the show on his blog, with pics.
Unfortunately, I'm in a rather inconvenient time zone for casual listening, as the show will premiere
at 11:30 a.m., BST
, on Monday, June 25th.
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.
One of the things I really wanted to know, when I listened
to Oscar Williams' Album of Modern Poetry
(1959), was whether or not Reed's "Naming of Parts" was different than the other recordings I had already heard on other albums.
For instance, the Smithsonian Institution's Global Sound
offers 99¢ downloads of audio samples and music from almost every country in the entire world; offering everything from tribal music to fiddle tunes, including spoken word records. It's an amazing cultural archive.
One album in particular, Folkways' Anthology of 20th Century English Poetry
(1961), has poetry by Reed and his contemporaries John Betjeman, Roy Fuller, Laurie Lee, C. Day Lewis, W.R. Rodgers, and Vernon Watkins. The liner notes for Part II
(.pdf) state that these recordings were 'directed by V.C. Clinton-Baddeley, and made by Edgar A. Vetter at 22b, Ebury Street, London, S.W.1, Summer 1958' (Google Maps
I've listened to "Naming of Parts" on both the Anthology of 20th Century English Poetry
and An Album of Modern Poetry
, and I can safely report that they are definitely two different recordings. Not just different: the Smithsonian's copy of "Naming of Parts
" is vastly superior in terms of tone, quality, and clarity. It does sound a bit like he's reading in an empty Tube station, but (in my opinion) Reed gives a more powerful performance on the Folkways' record. The track is only 99¢, and you can get the whole album for just $9.99.
But you don't have to take my word for it. You can join Smithsonian Global Sound
and listen for yourself, or just explore what they have to offer. A quick search for "poetry
" brings up 59 albums, and 801 tracks!
1509. Reed, Henry, "'Tatty': The Year's New Word," Birmingham Post, 13 October 1937.
Discusses the history and usage of the word 'tatty'.
In this week's New Yorker
, "Final Destination
" (printable article
), an in-depth look at the collections and archives at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
of the University of Texas at Austin, and the unstoppable tide of authors' papers and manuscripts which end up there:
There is not much that other institutions can do when Texas is interested. After Osborne, Stoppard, Penelope Lively, and others sold their papers to Texas, the mass departure aroused alarm in Britaina 2005 headline in the London Times proclaimed, 'writers unite to fight flight of literary papers to u.s.' To counter the Ransom Center, Britain’s national-heritage fund changed a rule prohibiting public money from being spent on material less than twenty years old; the exclusion was reduced to ten years. The change barely diminished the flow of work across the ocean, however. Staley [the Center's current director] does not have much sympathy for the aggrieved. Last year, at a conference at the British Library, Staley was asked about an essay in which the British poet laureate Andrew Motion argued that national treasures belonged in the nations that created them. He retorted, 'Like the Elgin Marbles?'
I know of at least four Reed-related items in the Ransom Center's archives: A 1944 letter from novelist Sid Chaplin to John Lehmann, calling Reed's "The End of an Impulse" in New Writing and Daylight
'the most sensible piece about modern poetry I have seen in a long time'; a 1945 typescript of one of Reed's BBC talks in the Elizabeth Bowen collection; a letter from Reed to Dame Edith Sitwell; and Sitwell's reply to Reed.
1508. Birmingham Post, Obituary for Henry Reed. 10 December 1986.
Reed's obituary in the Birmingham Post.
Last September, I mentioned
discovering a letter to Henry Reed in the collection of Oscar Williams' correspondence at the Lilly Library in Indiana. The letter was from Henry J. Dubester, and was among a group of letters addressed to British and American poets, including Auden, William Empson, Frost, Roy Fuller, Archibald MacLeish, Roethke, and Stephen Spender (amidst many others). I wondered, at the time, what Mr. Dubester was doing, writing to so many prominent poets?
Not long after, I received an e-mail from none other than Henry Dubester, himself, which answered my question. Mr. Dubester informed me:
I was promoted and served as Assistant and then Chief of the General Reference and Bibliography Divisions of the Library of Congress. The Poetry Office was one of the sections of the Division. The Library also had a recording laboratory where recordings were made and preserved of many individuals, including poets. I had the opportunity of compiling a set of records with a selection from those recordings. Oscar Williams was my consultant who advised me on the selection. Following his advice, I contacted the poets and solicited their permission to include the text of their recorded poems with the (3) record album.
Mr. Dubester is referring to the Library of Congress Recording Laboratory's An Album of Modern Poetry: An Anthology Read by the Poets
(1959), a set of recordings of the best 20th-century poets reading from their own work, edited by Williams.
My library actually owns these records, although I had to request them from the storage facility where they cache the more outdated or under-utilized materials. The library also possesses a spectacular media lab of its own, replete with soundproofed recording booths stuffed with just the right gear for analog-to-digital conversion. Which is? An ancient turntable plugged into a Mac.
So I snuck away for an hour today, and lifted the tracks of "Naming of Parts" and "Judging Distances" from Williams' Album of Modern Poetry
. The boxed set is three 12", 33 1/3 microgroove LPs, pressed into a vinyl the color of which there is no word for in English ("vermillion" does not adequately convey the records' ethereal translucence).
As Mr. Dubester promised, the set includes a wonderful, 41-page printed anthology of the poems being presented by their authors, as well as an introduction from Oscar Williams on the box. And, I did enjoy a wonderfully surreal moment, when I heard Conrad Aiken's voice booming from the lab's speakers, repeatedly referring to Rambo, Rambo, Rambo, before I realized he was talking about Rimbaud
. But, enough.
'This is Henry Reed, reading selections from his poems':
"Naming of Parts"
1507. Daily Telegraph, Obituary for Henry Reed. 10 December 1986.
Reed's obituary in the Telegraph.
Some enterprising soul has thoughtfully uploaded Robert Bloomberg's
1971 student film adaptation of "Naming of Parts
" to YouTube.com:
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).
Is this the humble beginning of Henry Reed's writing career with BBC radio?
Roger Savage, writing in the book British Radio Drama
(1981), says Reed's first original writing for radio was a 1946 piece called Noises
, produced first in a fifteen-minute version for an interlude between programs, and then extended to a full half-hour. Martin Armstrong, in The Listener
, described the piece as
a short essay on the psychology of noises in which noises were used to play, wittily and suggestively, on the imagination of the listener (November 28, 1946).
British Radio Drama
includes a bibliography of Reed's radio plays and the dates of their premieresNoises
is listed as having first aired on the BBC on March 4, 1946:
As you can see, the only "Interlude" scheduled is a five-minute break on the Light Programme at 7:10 p.m., although there is a fifteen-minute "Forces' Favourites" at 7:45 which could be a candidate.
The extended version of Noises
which Armstrong reviewed for The Listener
was broadcast later that year, on November 18, 1946, at 6:00 p.m. By that time, the Third Programme had been created, and the piece had earned a subtitle (as many of Reed's plays would) "A satirical programme":
Unfortunately, in some books the play is also listed as Noises On
(as in the opposite of "noises off-stage"), and the longer version as NoisesNasty and Nice
, causing me all sorts of difficulties in searching and pinning down dates and times.
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.'
Working from the (somewhat incestuous) bibliographies in British Radio Drama
, Contemporary Authors
, Contemporary Poets
, and The Dictionary of National Biography
, here's a nearly complete list of Henry Reed's writing for radio, including his translations from French and Italian (but not his talks or criticism):
- Noises (4 March 1946)
- NoisesNasty and Nice (1947)
- Moby Dick: A Play for Radio from Herman Melville's Novel (26 January 1947)
- Pytheas: A Dramatic Speculation (25 May 1947)
- The Unblest: A Study of the Italian Poet Giacomo Leopardi as a Child and in Early Manhood (9 May 1949)
- The Monument: A Study of the Last Years of the Italian Poet Giacomo Leopardi (7 March 1950)
- Return to Naples (17 August 1950)
- Canterbury Cathedral: An Exploration in Sound (with Elisabeth Lutyens, 7 November 1950)
- A By-Election in the Nineties (3 March 1951)
- The Dynasts (adapted from Thomas Hardy, 3-9 June 1951)
- Malatesta (translation, Henry de Montherlant, 26 February 1952)
- The Streets of Pompeii (16 March 1952)
- The Great Desire I Had: Shakespeare and Italy (26 October 1952)
- Westminster Abbey (with Elisabeth Lutyens, 1953)
- A Very Great Man Indeed (7 September 1953)
- All for the Best (translation, Luigi Pirandello, 22 November 1953)
- The Private Life of Hilda Tablet: A Parenthesis for Radio (24 May 1954)
- Hamlet; or, The Consequences of Filial Piety (translation, Jules Laforgue, June 20 1954)
- The Battle of the Masks (translation, Virginio Puecher, 6 September 1954)
- The Queen and the Rebels (translation, Ugo Betti, 17 October 1954)
- Emily Butter: An Occasion Recalled (14 November 1954)
- The Burnt Flower-Bed (translation, Ugo Betti, 23 January 1955)
- Vincenzo: A Tragicomedy (29 March 1955)
- Holiday Land (translation, Ugo Betti, 5 June 1955)
- A Hedge, Backwards (29 February 1956)
- Crime on Goat Island (translation, Ugo Betti, 7 October 1956)
- Don Juan in Love (translation, Samy Fayad, 5 November 1956)
- Alarica (translation, Jaques Audiberti, 22 September 1956)
- Irene (translation, Ugo Betti, 20 October 1957)
- Corruption in the Palace of Justice (translation, Ugo Betti, 19 January 1958)
- The Auction Sale (poem, 20 September 1958)
- The Primal Scene, As It Were: Nine Studies in Disloyalty (11 March 1958)
- Not a Drum Was Heard: The War Memoirs of General Gland (6 May 1959)
- One Flesh (translation, Silvio Giovaninetti, 12 June 1959)
- The Land Where the King Is a Child (translation, Henry de Montherlant, 3 October 1959)
- Musique Discrète: A Request Programme of Music by Dame Hilda Tablet (with Donald Swann, 27 October 1959)
- The House on the Water (translation, Ugo Betti, 3 February 1961)
- A Hospital Case (translation, Dino Buzzati, 22 November 1961)
- The America Prize (translation, Dino Buzzati, 18 June 1964)
- Zone 36 (translation, Dino Buzzati, 22 March 1965)
- The Complete Lessons of the War (poems, 14 February 1966)
- The Advertisement (translation, Natalia Ginzburg, 24 September 1968)
- Summer (translation, Romain Weingarten, 3 October 1969)
- The Two Mrs. Morlis (translation, Luigi Pirandello, 8 November 1971)
- The Strawberry Ice (translation, Natalia Ginzburg, 21 January 1973)
- Room for Argument (translation, Luigi Pirandello, 7 January 1974)
- The Wig (translation, Natalia Ginzburg, 23 March 1976)
- Like the Leaves (translation, Giuseppe Giacosa, 24 May 1976)
- Duologue (translation, Natalia Ginzburg, 3 January 1977)
- The Soul Has Its Rights (translation, Giuseppe Giacosa, 22 June 1977)
- Sorrows of Love (translation, Giuseppe Giacosa, 23 October 1978)
- Moby Dick (new production of 1947 play, 2 February 1979)
- I Married You for Fun (translation, Natalia Ginzburg, 7 January 1980)
It's likely some of the dates are incorrect, owing to frequent rebroadcasts and re-adaptations, and I've yet to find a record for the broadcast in 1953 of Reed's collaboration with the composer Elizabeth Lutyens on her BBC-commissioned Westminster Abbey
. Still, this should be a fairly accurate and (almost) plenary list.
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.
(1914-1986). Born: Birmingham, England, 22 February 1914; died: London, 8
Education: MA, University of Birmingham, 1936. Served: RAOC
, 1941-42; Foreign Office, Bletchley Park, 1942-1945.
Freelance writer: BBC Features Department, 1945-1980.
A Map of Verona: Poems
The Novel Since 1939
Moby Dick: A Play for Radio from Herman Melville's Novel
Lessons of the War
Hilda Tablet and Others: Four Pieces for Radio
The Streets of Pompeii and Other Plays for Radio
The Auction Sale
Posts of note: