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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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«  Unappearing Poems  »

Reeding Lessons: the Henry Reed research blog

16.12.2017


Unappearing Poems

I'm itching to read Stuart Kelly's The Book of Lost Books: An Incomplete History of All the Great Books You'll Never Read, stories of famously lost manuscripts, burned or misplaced drafts, abandoned subjects, suppressed works, and uncompleted novels.

Kelly's book is an inventory of the greatest works of literature ever written which neither he, nor anyone else, will ever possess. "The entire history of literature was also the history of the loss of literature." From the 'Arthurian epics contemplated by both Dryden and Milton but never written,' 'Laurence Sterne's never completed "Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy,"' as well as the novel Sylvia Plath was working on before her suicide.

My own list of great works of lost literature would include Henry Reed's phantom collection, The Auction Sale and Other Poems.

As late as 1977, Reed was still contemplating publishing a follow-up to his first collection of poetry, A Map of Verona. Indeed, his entry in Who's Who (.pdf) from that year lists The Auction Sale and Other Poems among his published works. The title poem is arguably Reed's strongest post-War verse. But the book failed to materialize in print. As Jon Stallworthy states in his introduction to the posthumous Collected Poems, 'As a perfectionist, [Reed] could not bring himself to release what he must have recognized would be his last book until it was as good as he could make it, and it never was.'

The Collected Poems includes many of the drafts and fragments which would have gone into Reed's second collection, so in a way, nothing has been lost. But I dream of parallel, mirror universe, in which there is a copy of The Auction Sale on my bookshelf, with a version of Reed's "Northwest" poem in the imaginary table of contents.

The New York Times calls Stuart Kelly's Book of Lost Books 'clever and highly entertaining.' Here's Chapter 1, for perusal.

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What is Henry Reed's first name?

1513. Hodge, Alan. "Thunder on the Right." Tribune (London), 14 June 1946, 15.
Hodge finds 'dry charm as well as quiet wit' in "Judging Distances," but overall feels Reed is 'diffuse and not sufficiently accomplished.'



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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