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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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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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Posts from September 2007

Reeding Lessons: the Henry Reed research blog

24.7.2014


Books of Fury



Because we love libraries and cartoon violence in equal parts. "Books of Fury," featuring Buddhist Monkey vs. a pack of book-defacing scofflaw ninjas. (Highlighters? Nooooo!) An episode of mondo media's Happy Tree Friends.

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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.'


Unattributed Eliot

The Rt Hon. Kenneth Baker, in his excellent anthology Unauthorized Versions: Poems and Their Parodies (OCLC WorldCat), assiduously includes this explanatory note with Henry Reed's famous send-up of Eliot's Four Quartets:

This parody by a poet celebrated in his own right won a competition in the New Statesman. Eliot himself commented: 'In fact one is apt to think one could parody oneself much better. (As a matter of fact some critics have said that I have done so.) But there is one which deserves the success it has had, Henry Reed's "Chard Whitlow".' There is no single poem to put beside Reed's parody, which cleverly manages to summon echoes from almost all Eliot's work, but a few examples are given here.

Lord Baker places "Chard Whitlow" side-by-side with lines from Eliot's "Little Gidding," "Gerontion," "Ash Wednesday," and "Choruses from 'The Rock'."

It seems unlikely (if not impossible) that Reed was parodying "Little Gidding," since that poem was written in 1942, after the publication of "Chard Whitlow" (.pdf). It's more likely Reed had in mind the earlier verse of Eliot's Four Quartets, such as "Burnt Norton" (1935). The possibility exists, therefore, that Reed's poem actually influenced Eliot's. Stephen Spender, however, in his book T.S. Eliot (New York: Viking, 1975), says that Eliot, in fact, 'relished' the parody, but that he was not seeking to 'emulate' it (p. 177).

Regardless of who influenced whom, the real mystery is the source of Eliot's admiration of "Chard Whitlow," quoted above. Baker's anthology includes acknowledgments for the poems he has compiled, but I'm fairly certain there is no attribution for Eliot's words, and no footnotes accompany the explanatory notes. Does anyone have a copy they can double-check for me?

The quote appears in numerous places on the web (including Robert Pinsky's article for Slate magazine), but always lifted from Baker's anthology, it would seem.

Where did Baker take Eliot's quote from? What is the original source?

Incidentally, for his winning poem in the New Statesman's parody contest, Reed was awarded "the usual prize" of two Guineas (42 shillings).



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.


Up to Speed

Just a few updates. The bibliography is looking fairly smart now, in its Noguchi-style open-shelf filing, wouldn't you agree? (Compare with my last filing update, Feb. 2006.)

Filing shelves

I actually managed to rid myself of one of the file boxes seen piled on the right. Plastic albatrosses. I think I need to buy a couple of more stackable cubes, too, when I have the spare change. They're cheap, but shipping's a killer.

Also, I've been steadily finishing bringing the Henry Reed pages up to date, even as I'm considering redesigning and upgrading to version 3.0. The site's getting a little tired, and starting to show its age, don't you think?

Most recently, I edited Roger Savage's lengthy chapter from British Radio Drama, "The Radio Plays of Henry Reed," adding page numbers and the all-important appendix, which lists almost all of Reed's radio dramas and their dates of broadcast.

Currently, I'm still waiting for Amazon.com to ship me two copies of the new, paperback edition of the Collected Poems. Their estimated date of shipping is not until October 11th!

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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.


LitLinks

Publishers Bedford/St. Martin's have revamped their LitLinks database, which contains brief biographies and links to resources on the web for more than 700 authors. One of the enhancements is the ability to display lists of Bedford/St. Martin's titles in which a particular author's work appears. Handy!

Here's their page for Henry Reed (small factual error: Reed received an MA from the University of Birmingham in 1936, not a BA in 1937. See his Who's Who entry). And here's the list of their anthologies in which "Naming of Parts" is included.

Unfortunately, although the site is slick-looking and a large improvement over the previous, static version, the new design relies heavily on JavaScript and frames to serve from the database, which makes linking to a particular author difficult, if not impossible, and functionality is lost if you do. Frames are a big accessibility no-no! Pages can take an eternity to load, if at all (which may indicate database or server problems), so let us hope Bedford/St. Martin's are still working out all the LitLinks kinks.

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1502. Reed, Henry. Poetry Reading. The Poet Speaks. British Council recording, no. 1636. 12 March 1970. Co-sponsored by the British Council and the Woodberry Poetry Room in the Lamont Library of Harvard University. TAPE ARCHIVE PR6035.E32 A6 1970x, Woodberry Poetry Room, Houghton Library, Harvard University.
Henry Reed reads a selection of his poems for the British Council series, The Poet Speaks.


Early Auden Found

A biographer researching the critic John Hayward (1905-65) has turned up "a collection" of unknown (or thought to be lost) poems written by W.H. Auden, published in his teens while he was at Gresham's School in North Norfolk, England. John Smart, a former head at Gresham's turned up the poems (The Independent) in old volumes of the school's magazine, The Gresham, which Hayward had edited as a student.

In one of the journals, Mr Smart came across a poem entitled 'Evening and Night on Primrose Hill', which, like most of the verse in the magazine, was unsigned.

In her definitive collection of Auden's 'Juvenilia', the author Katherine Bucknell refers to a sonnet the poet wrote about Primrose Hill in north-west London, which had been lost.

The Independent also has a longer follow-up piece on the discovery. (Via dumbfoundry.)

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1501. Reed, Henry. Interview with Peter Orr. The Poet Speaks. British Council recording, no. 1638. 11 June 1970. Co-sponsored by the British Council and the Woodberry Poetry Room in the Lamont Library of Harvard University. TAPE ARCHIVE PR6035.E32 Z5 1970x, Woodberry Poetry Room, Houghton Library, Harvard University.
Henry Reed speaks with Peter Orr of the British Council, as part of the series The Poet Speaks.


Poems in This War, That War

This recent feature in The Guardian, "In the Line of Fire," again asks the question, "Where are the war poets of this war?" (see "To the Poets of 1940," previously). In answer, the article suggests there is 'one book of high-quality poetry about the Iraq war': Here, Bullet, by Brian Turner.

Book cover

Henry Reed also receives passing mention, along with fellow Second World War poets Alun Lewis and John Pudney. As part of the legacy of critics asking "Where are the war poets?", the article mentions an editorial from the August 8th, 1942 Times Literary Supplement: "Poets in War" (2MB .pdf). Of course, I looked it up:

POETS IN WAR
Where are the poets of the war? This question is often asked by those who remember that the last war threw up a fair amount of notable poetry. And that is true; for there were then living several highly skilled and experienced poets—Bridges, Kipling, Hardy, and there can be added Doughty, all of whom had something eloquent to say about the war or about aspects of it. But they, and others, were established writers; they viewed the war through the accumulated knowledge and wisdom of years; they were not soldiers, neither were they liable to be called up. Nor, when one thinks of it, have there ever been many poets of war who have been at the time of writing on active service, though the last war produced several poems by fighting men, like Julian Grenfell and Rupert Brooke, which are not likely to be forgotten. The fighting man, however, who writed about war is exceptional, and none too common is the soldier who sings of war years afterwards. Full of war as European poetry is, the singers of war have been for the most part not soldiers. Aeschylus, it is true, is said to have taken part in Salamis, and his narrative of that battle reads like participant's. Nearly all the epics are of war: and Homer's audience clearly delighted in it, but to the humane Virgil it was essentially a matter for sorrow and pity. Tyraeus, the Greek elegist, was certainly a warrior: and he appears to have seen war at too close quarters to glorify it.

Thoughts such as these are almost inevitable when “Poems of this War,” reviewed on another page, invites attention. The contrast is great. For this anthology is not the work of old hands, exempt from the liability to serve, but of “the younger writers,” all presumably of military age, where, as some of them certainly are, actually serving, or not. The anthology then shows how the war affects the youngest generation of those who make poetry the vehicle of their thoughts. Or, to be cautious, how it affects particular representatives of that generation picked by particular editors. That they write with complete sincerity is not to be doubted; they say what they wish to say in their own language; and yet, as Mr. Blunden in his introduction implies, there is much that is traditional in war poets which is not to be found in them. There is “no militarism, or personal claim, or study of revenge.” This is a remarkable comment to make. Militarism is no doubt offensive even in professional soldiers, many of the best of whom have been free from it. Personal claims, again, may be sheer egoism. Revenge may be an injurious study. But is there no such thing as righteous indignation? May not a dear homeland be in imminent danger? That war is a foul way of living, that all things pleasant and legitimate are shattered by it, that soldiering, even in the best cause, may be at times and to some temperaments an unmitigated bore—all this is true; and there is a middle generation living which has been through it all. No doubt, however, war was to that generation more of a novelty than it is to the latest, which was born in its atmosphere and bred up in its aftermath.

These poems, Mr. Blunden tells us, have been written on the principle of the “innocent eye.” The mood of this volume is “seeing where the truth is.” So far, so good; but may not the eye in the innocence of youth miss things which older commentators, equally innocent, will have acquired the habit or the power of discerning? Can anything like the whole truth about so vast a subject, so ubiquitous a presence, as universal war, be revealed to any eye? The facts here are admittedly in various moods. Some of them are in the trenches or entering battle; others share the common danger of being bombed; others meditate on natural beauty, on love, on friendship, on death and life. They are quite candid. They are oppressed by the calamity which has befallen the world. In vain to remark that they are not old enough to look back on much in tranquility. Yet they must be taken for what they say and for what they do not say, as a symptom, because they express themselves without labour. To read them is to infer that, were there no war, they would still be poets, but poets compelled, like all too many children of this age, to think, observe, and write within a narrow living-space.
Also reviewed in this issue are Poems of This War: By Younger Poets (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1942), edited by Patricia Ledward and Colin Strang ("Songs of Emergency," p. 392), and volumes by Sidney Keyes, Alan Rook, Keidrich Rhys, and John Heath-Stubbs.

By coincidence, August 8th, 1942—the day this editorial appeared in the TLS—was the very day Reed's "Naming of Parts" was printed in The New Statesman and Nation.

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1499. Times (London), "Broadcasting Programmes," 18 June 1964, 6.
Reed's translation of Buzzati's play, "The American Prize," premieres tonight on the Third Programme.


A Searchable Map of Verona


Title page

Google Book Search finally got around to digitizing the University of Michigan's copy of Reed's A Map of Verona: Poems (London: 1946) back in May of this year. It's still in copyright, so you can only view it in snippets, but it's still nice to have searchable text at a glance.

Google's keywords for the book are also telling, if not a little strange: 'kharma, dead ground, iseult, tower rises, unspeaking, central sector, draughty, worth describing, harbour, slow wave, gulls, wide road, grotto, never happen, dancers, christmas eve, chard whitlow.'



1495. Reed, Henry. "Proust's Way." Reviews of Marcel Proust: A Selection from His Miscellaneous Writings translated by Gerard Hopkins, and The Two Worlds of Marcel Proust by Harold March. Observer, 16 January 1949, 4.
Reed says, 'Proust, like Shakespeare, should be read as early in life as possible, and should be read entire.'


Poetry in War-Time: The Older Poets

In early 1945, Henry Reed wrote a set of two articles for The Listener in which he took stock of the poetry produced during the Second World War: "Poetry in War Time." These essays are important for two reasons: first, because they offer a glimpse of Reed as an emerging critic, writing about his friends and influencers; and secondly because the criticism offered is absolutely contemporary, and written by a peer (or at least, a promising hopeful).

Many of Reed's finer poems were first published in journals before 1945, including "Sailor's Harbour," and "Chard Whitlow" (The New Statesman and Nation), "Chrysothemis," and "Philoctetes" (New Writing & Daylight), and "A Map of Verona" (The Listener). Reed, however, had only published a mere handful longer pieces of criticism prior to "Poetry in War Time": "The End of an Impulse" (on Auden, Spender, and Day-Lewis) in the summer of 1943, and critiques of Edith Sitwell and T.S. Eliot in 1944.

Cover of The Listener

The first of these two essays, "Poetry in War Time: I—The Older Poets" (.pdf), appeared in The Listener on January 18th, 1945. In it, Reed traces the influence of the French Symbolists on the great poets of his time, Eliot and Sitwell (whose work we have shown he was already intimate with, and comfortable speaking about), and their sway, in turn, on the older poets he considers most influential during the war: Edwin Muir, Louis MacNeice, and C. Day-Lewis:

The two poets of the 'thirties who have best succeeded in being also poets of the 'forties are Louis MacNeice and Cecil Day Lewis. They have always had great curiosity and initiative in exploring new musical possibilities for the lyric. Some of their earlier experiments do not wear well: the effects of MacNeice's 'The Sunlight on the Garden', for example, or some of the curious early poems of Day Lewis, where one finds the rhymes put at the four corners of a stanza like stones holding down a table-cloth at a breezy picnic. In MacNeice's Plant and Phantom and in his poems published since, flashy wantonness has all but disappeared. The final 'Cradle Song' in the volume is very haunting; and some of his later topical poems (for example 'Brother Fire') have shown an honesty and calmness of approach unusual in war-time verse.

Next, we'll continue with Part II of Reed's essays on poetry in war-time: "The Younger Poets."



1494. Reed, Henry. "Rates for Reviewing." Author, Playwright and Composer 57, no. 4 (Summer 1947): 64-68 [67].
'The whole rackety business is a microcosm of human weakness and wickedness,' Reed says.



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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