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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.

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Henry Reed, ca. 1960


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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.


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«  True and False  »

Reeding Lessons: the Henry Reed research blog

7.5.2021


True and False

A short review—too short to add to the criticism page, I'm afraid—of Henry Reed's Collected Poems. Rodney Pybus, in the Stand Magazine (Summer 1993), reviews Richard Hugo's Making Certain It Goes On, Thinking of Happiness by Michael Laskey, Threats and Promises by Rosemary Norman, HMS Glasshouse by Sean O'Brien, In the Echoey Tunnel by Christopher Reid, Pierrot by Harry Smart, The View from the Stockade by Landeg White, and Audrey T. Rogers' Denise Levertov: The Poetry of Engagement, as well as providing this assessment of Reed:

Poetry Chronicle II

The Collected Poems (ed. J. Stallworthy; OUP, £20) of the late Henry Reed puts the lie to the notion that he was a one-poem poet ('Naming of Parts') who also wrote a brilliant parody of T.S. Eliot, 'Chard Whitlow' ('As we get older we do not get any younger...'). He wrote some first-rate drama for BBC radio in the great days of the Third Programme (e.g. The Streets of Pompeii, and the famous Hilda Tablet plays). While it is true that he published only one collection during his lifetime, A Map of Verona in 1946, it was still being reprinted twenty-five years later.

Reed is part of post-war English poetry for what he wrote in the Forties and Fifties; it's good to have him in print, and to see 'The Changeling', 'The Auction Sale', and all five of the 'Lessons of War'. He wrote less than he should have done, but he is worth saving for his distinctive note of exclusion from and loss of love, paradise, fulfilment. He turned, as so many of his contemporaries did, to the Mediterranean for all it could offer that England couldn't — 'the Italian landscape of mythologised desire'. It is not only the soldier returning home at the end of 'The Changeling' to a lovely garden at dusk and a young wife in bed, but clearly Reed himself, who feels the force of rejection and disillusion at the close: '"All this is false. And I / Am an interloper here."' (Reed's homosexuality does not entirely account for the strength of his feeling.) This edition reprints his first book, adds about a dozen 'new' poems along with translations (particularly from Leopardi's Italian).

It's nice to see recognition of "The Changeling," published only once during Reed's lifetime, in The Listener in 1950, which is now considered one of Reed's best poems. Stallworthy, in his introduction to the Collected Poems, calls it a 'brilliantly condensed autobiography,' that 'uses the changeling figure (from his mother's fairy-stories) and the family legend of noble descent to articulate a troubling sense of doubleness: true self and false self.'


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Notation for "True and False":
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What is Henry Reed's first name?

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.



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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