Yet another review of the American edition of Reed's A Map of Verona and Other Poems turned up in Google Book Search recently, this one by the poet, editor, and translator Babette Deutsch.
It appears in the Books section of the October, 1948 issue of Tomorrow. Tomorrow was a literary magazine published by the Creative Age Press in New York from 1941 to 1951, devoted to 'creative living' and to printing 'the real experiences of those who have adjusted themselves to new countries and new processes of living.' It was founded and edited by the Irish medium Eileen J. Garrett (1893-1970), who was once 'probably the best-known and most reliable psychic in the world,' according to Life magazine. She had run a labor hostel in London for wounded soldiers after World War I, and in her memoir Adventures in the Supernormal (1949), she claims 'after the first World War, I was among those who helped gather together the posthumous writings of the young poets.'
In addition to Tomorrow, Mrs. Garrett also established the Parapsychology Foundation of New York in 1951, publishing the International Journal of Parapsychology. This issue of Tomorrow sports critiques of Graham Greene and Aldous Huxley, but also includes a review of Dr. Jan Ehrenwald'sTelepathy and Medical Psychology (New York, 1948). As woo-woo as this all sounds, the contributors and writing seem top-notch.
Babette Deutsch was born in New York City in 1895, and was the author of ten books of poems, four novels, and several books of criticism, as well as a respected translation of Eugene Onegin. She lectured at the New School for Social Research and Columbia University, which awarded her an honorary doctorate in 1946. She was married to the translator Avrahm Yarmolinsky, who was the head of the Slavonic Division of the New York Public Library.
Deutsch reviews Richard Wilbur'sThe Beautiful Changes and Reed's A Map of Verona, both published a year earlier, in 1947. Wilbur's gift, she feels, is 'to change what his poetry touches back to wonder'; whereas Reed is more 'an unwilling pupil [of Eliot] rebelling against his master,' who 'has not learned his lesson well.'
The Lessons of the War she describes as 'arresting,' and possessing a 'restrained power'; some of his other pieces exhibit a 'melancholy loveliness.' But on the whole, she finds Reed's volume lacking. His verse is 'cloying' in its melodiousness; 'curiously middle-aged' and Georgian; 'soporific' and colorless. Deutsch compares him unfavorably with Aiken, Ransom, and finally Wilbur. All this in one paragraph of 220 words.
To give credit where credit is due: I never would have found Deutsch's review if two-thirds of it weren't devoted to singing the praises of Richard Wilbur. It had been dutifully and lovingly cataloged by Wilbur's biographers and bibliographers.
Reilly's bibliography doesn't dispel the idea that Henry Reed's Lessons of the War are the most-anthologized poems from the Second World War, just that Reed doesn't necessarily appear in the majority of anthologies of Second World War poetry.
The fifteen anthologies on Reilly's list that Reed appears in are:
An Anthology of Modern Verse, 1940-1960, chosen by Elizabeth Jennings (London: Methuen, 1961)
Components of the Scene: Stories, Poems, and Essays of the Second World War, edited by Ronald Blythe (Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin, 1966)
English Poetry, Book 5: Modern Verse, edited by W.M. Smyth (London: Edward Arnold, 1971)
I Burn For England: An Anthology of the Poetry of World War II, selected by Charles Hamblet (London: Leslie Frewin, 1966)
The Martial Muse: Seven Centuries of War Poetry, edited by Alan Bold (London: Wheaton, 1976)
More Poems from the Forces: A Collection of Verses by Serving Members of the Navy, Army, and Air Force, edited by Keidrych Rhys (London: Routledge, 1943)
New Poems, 1944: An Anthology of American and British Verse, with a Selection of Poems from the Armed Forces, edited by Oscar Williams (New York: Howell, Soskin, 1944)
Poetry of the Forties, edited by Robin Skelton (Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin, 1968)
Poetry of the 1940s: An Anthology, edited by Howard Sergeant (London: Longman, 1970)
The Poetry of War, 1939-45, edited by Ian Hamilton (London: Alan Ross, 1965)
The Terrible Rain: The War Poets 1939-1945, selected by Brian Gardner (London: Eyre Metheun, 1978)
These Years: An Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, edited by Howard Sergeant (Leeds: E.J. Arnold & Sons, 1950)
Covering and recovering some old ground today, when up pops a short but pithy bio in this rare anthology: The Voice of Poetry, 1930-1950, edited by Hermann Peschmann (London: Evans Bros., 1950). The book includes Reed's "Naming of Parts," but Peschmann seems to have taken the time to personally poll his contributors for personal information:
Reed, Henry. Born 1914 in Birmingham and educated there, inc. Birmingham Univ. Called up 1941, went to Foreign Office 19426. Since then whole-time writerbut says he is a slow worker. Broadcasts on books and films and enjoys writing radioscripts on extended themes, e.g. Moby Dick. Fond of films, theatre and opera, and of playing the piano badly and for long stretches of time. One verse book: A Map of Verona (1946).
Peschmann was, for a time in the 1940s, a lecturer in English literature for the Adult Education Department of Goldsmith College, University of London, known as a critic and for his correspondence with Dylan Thomas and others.
This anthology was published in 1950, so Reed's BBC radio adaptation of Moby Dick (January, 1947), Pytheas: A Dramatic Speculation (May, 1947), and The Unblest: A Study of the Italian Poet Giacomo Leopardi (May, 1949) would have been his only features thus far. Reed's love of theatre (and actors), opera, and film are well-documented in his letters and book reviews, and he often lamented his meticulous, plodding writing process, but the fact that he played the piano, however poorly, is actually news to me.
This tiny tidbit is so heartbreakingly personalparaphrased from a letter or questionnaire or phone call to Reedit's tempting to try and track down a copy of the book.
1508. Birmingham Post, Obituary for Henry Reed. 10 December 1986.
Reed's obituary in the Birmingham Post.
(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 (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)