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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.

Read "Naming of Parts."

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Henry Reed, ca. 1960


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Reeding:

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.
The Sparrow: A Jesuit-led mission to a newly discovered planet.


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Books

Libraries

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Posts from July 2005

Reeding Lessons: the Henry Reed research blog

23.7.2014


Confessions of a Frequent Library User

Don't feel bad that you don't know how to find stuff in the library. You shouldn't be intimidated or discouraged. I work in one, 40-, 50-plus hours a week, and I still don't know how to use a library.

I read the call numbers or location incorrectly in the online catalog. Neglect to notice that it says "Checked out," or that the library doesn't own a particular year of a journal title, when the range of volumes they do own is distinctly outlined in the record. I get off the elevator on the wrong floor. I often forget that the call number "L" comes after "K." And I never manage to photocopy all the pages I need on the first visit.

Take, for example, the reference I ran down this week: a mention of one of Reed's poems in a 1996 study on rhythm and meter in modern poetry. I discover from that the local library has the 2nd, 1964 edition, of Harvey Gross' Sound and Form in Modern Poetry, but not the 3rd edition my cite refers to. I give it a whirl, anyway.

To my surprise, the older edition contains not a passing reference, but an entire section devoted to Reed's poetry, the only book besides Beggs' thesis which describes the metrics employed in Reed's poems:

For to dáy | we have nám | ing of párts . . .

In my excitement (and perhaps under the extra pressure of the impending library closing time: summer hours), I Xeroxed the title page, copyright, the pages listed in the index, and the index page Reed is listed on. I carefully packed my treasured photocopies into my backpack so they wouldn't get crumpled on the way home, and off I went. Good night!

Of course, when I got home, several oversights became painfully apparent. Firstly, near the end of the section on Reed was a superscript numeral, indicating the book had Endnotes I had failed to either read, or copy. Second, and worst of all, the section on Reed is a subtitled part of a titled chapter, and without the Table of Contents, I wouldn't be able to properly cite the inclusive page numbers in my ultra-anal Chicago Manual of Style bibliographic bastardization. And, to add insult to self-inflicted injury, I realize that I was either too lazy or too pressed for time to return all my books back to their respective niches in the stacks, and I had left the Sound and Form sitting on the table beside the photocopier.

At that point, I realized, it is customary to utter a certain four-letter Anglo-Saxon verb; loud enough, preferably, to make the cat raise his head off his bedding in alarm.

So I go back to the library after work the following day, and beeline for the aisle containing the English 101 texts. I remember the title (embossed in gold) and the color of the cover (green), but not the exact call number, and I have to go login to a computer to look it up, again. Call number in hand, it's back to the stacks, only to find a hole on the shelf the precise width of the the book I had used the day before. I cross the floor to the photocopier where I had left the book: no joy. The staging area on the third floor where books await reshelving? Zilch. I descend two flights of stairs to the Circulation Desk, and kindly ask if I may browse the booktrucks awaiting reshelving. Still nothing. I take a deep breath, in through the nose — hold — exhale over the teeth, and silently pledge to wait a few days.

Patience has its rewards: the book had magically reappeared on the shelf this evening, and on close inspection I discovered the relevant chapter contains an unindexed introductory paragraph which names Reed several times, and that reveals the author's high opinion of his work:
“Henry Reed, who has published sparingly, seems to me the most considerable poet of [Empson, Watkins, and Reed]; he has worked out his own individual romantic-ironic style, and he has something to say.” (p. 271)

«  Scansion Meter Rhythm  0  »


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.'


A Small Part of a Wider Scene

Weldon Kees was a man of many hats. Poet, critic, painter, composer. He wrote for the Newsreels, did a stint as a librarian, and even had aspirations of producing movies. I remember coming across Kees' series of Robinson poems in some anthology from the Forties or Fifties, and thinking to myself, "This is what T.S. Eliot would sound like, if he wrote in English." That was before I knew that Kees was the disappearing poet.

In July 1955, Weldon Kees' car was found near the Golden Gate Bridge, and no one ever saw or heard from him again.

In January of that year, Kees and one of his best friends in San Francisco, the poet Michael Grieg, conceived of putting on a theatrical poetry reading they deemed the Poets' Follies. The Follies were a sort of poetic revue, with Keyes at the piano and a jazz ensemble of poets, actors, dancers and other artists sitting in. Lawrence Ferlinghetti read. The poetry was accompanied by interpretive dance. Kees and Grieg even managed to cajole a local stripper to stop by and recite some Eliot, Elinor Wylie, and Sara Teasdale.

Whom did Weldon Kees choose to read thay night? Why, Henry Reed, of course.

Weldon Kees
Weldon Kees (in uniform), reading "Unarmed Combat." From Vanished Act: The Life and Art of Weldon Kees, by James Reidel. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2003.
Kees, costumed in military dress (he was designated 4F for World War II, described as 'psychologically unfit for service') gave an interpretation of Reed's "Unarmed Combat." Why Kees chose that particular poem is beyond me. It's the more serious of the three Lessons of the War poems published at that time, and probably the least likely to be enjoyed by a raucous Follies audience. Looking at the photograph from that session of the Follies, I realize that the book in Kees' hand is too small to be an anthology. The slim volume looks like a copy of Reed's A Map of Verona and Other Poems.

Kees was a contemporary of Reed's; in fact, they were born only two days apart. Kees certainly read a great deal of poetry: he was a book reviewer and critic for the Partisan Review, The New Republic, and Time. Kees probably felt a special affinity for Reed, whose first book arrived in the States in 1947, full of promise, and who was never heard from again.

«  WeldonKees Poetry  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.



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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