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."

Henry Reed Henry Reed
Henry Reed Henry Reed
Henry Reed, ca. 1960



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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All posts for "Congress"

Reeding Lessons: the Henry Reed research blog


A Scholarly Adventure, Part II

Aphorism: Everyone at Library of Congress is working on something more interesting than you. Everywhere I went — the elevators, the halls, Photoduplication Services — people were talking about their research, and each topic was infinitely more exciting and erudite than my little project.

In the elevator, there was a gentleman who casually mentioned his dissertation was on race relations in an exotic country during some dimly-remembered century. At the photoduplication desk, it was a lady who was ordering full-size copies of pages of the London Times, to be shipped to a friend in New England. And in the Adams reading room, an affable fellow across the table was impatiently awaiting a journal containing an article concerning cellular automata (Wolfram's A New Kind of Science was recommended as a starting point).

Myself? I had travelled several hours by car and by train to make copies of old t.v. guides.
Radio Times

Well, okay. Not actual T.V. Guides. I was looking for issues of the BBC's Radio Times which immediately preceded broadcasts of Henry Reed's radio plays. I had seen few, scattered mentions of articles written by or about Reed, notably in Roger Savage's unrivalled chapter in British Radio Drama (Drakakis, ed., 1981); The Diversity Website's "Henry Reed radio drama" page; and poking around the inventories of dealers in rare back issues of U.K. magazines.

The Library of Congress is a venerable institution. Venerable and inveterate. Waved through metal detectors by uniformed security (please place your cellphone on the X-ray machine's conveyor, not in the plastic bin with your keys), you must shed your coat and bag at the cloakroom, and proceed to the reading rooms without the benefit of the protective layers to which you are accustomed, a naked scholar. You fill out your slips requesting your obscure volumes, and the desk attendant roughly crams them (along with everyone else's) into a small brass cylinder about the size of can of tomato paste. The cylinder disappears into a pneumatic tube and is whoooshed away into the bowels of a national library that occupies three city blocks. Now you have about an hour to study and memorize the intricately carved and muraled ceilings (you notice a predominant theme on owls), near the end of which you will suddenly realize that you failed to fill out a slip for the single volume on which your day's research will hinge. Then you will hear a distant rumble, a shudder or deep vibration — like the building is directly under the landing path of an international airport — and an ancient dumbwaiter bearing the immovable weight of your books rises, rises behind the counter, and in a moment, the attendant bears them lovingly to your desk. He makes two trips. Some of the resulting .pdfs:

"Captain Ahab and the Great White Whale." (Moby Dick).

"The Prisoner in the Palazzo." (The Unblest).

"Did Shakespeare Go To Italy?" (The Great Desire I Had).

"Homage to Dame Hilda Or Swann's Way." (Musique Discrète).

I learned a few things: 1) Reader Identification cards expire every two years. 2) At the cloakrooms, you can request a clear, see-through, plastic bag to tote around your notes and pencils and photocopies without being a security risk. They won't let you in the reading rooms with an accordian file or manila envelope. 3) If you are unsure about the library's run of holdings for a certain periodical, put in requests for your earliest and most recent cites first. See what comes back. 4) The Folger Shakespeare Library is right next door to the Adams building. You can put in your book requests and while away the hour's wait worshipping before a First Folio. 5) Smoking is not allowed anywhere within 50 feet of federal buildings. An ashtray is located approximately 51 feet from the entrance to federal buildings. 6) There is nothing more mysterious and heartbreaking than having your original request slip returned with an X in the dreaded "Not on Shelf" box. Not on shelf? Why? Was it something I did? Something I said? Where is it? It could be many places, but it was decidedly not on the shelf where it resides when it is. On the shelf. And 7) The Washington Monument is huge. It's 554 feet tall. Standing just outside the main entrance to the Madison building, in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol, the obelisk looms on the horizon, seemingly just a short stroll away. It's not. It's a mile and a half, with a backpack full of books and index cards and $20.00 worth of photocopies, warm as newly baked bread.

(Read Part I....)

1537. Radio Times, "Full Frontal Pioneer," Radio Times People, 20 April 1972, 5.
A brief article before a new production of Reed's translation of Montherlant, mentioning a possible second collection of poems.

14 Things I Learned Researching at Library of Congress

LoC book request
  • Taking the Metro Blue Line from Franconia-Springfield, it's quicker to transfer to the Yellow into L'Enfant Plaza, and get back on the Blue or Orange Lines to Capitol South.
  • Reader Registration is in the Madison Building off Independence Ave., requires everything short of a DNA sample, and offers less-than-helpful research guidance.
  • Get a map.
  • The tunnels connecting the buildings are in the basement, which is the "C" button (for cellar) in the elevators. The Jefferson cloakroom is on "G" (for ground floor).
  • You can take fewer belongings into the main reading room than you can visiting Hannibal Lector. Wear a sweater, 'cause you can't keep your coat.
  • The Reference librarians working the Main Reading Room know their stuff, but the book service attendants at the Central Desk have the inside skinny.
  • Call numbers B-F, N and P are kept in Jefferson; A, G, H, J, L, Q-V and Z are in Adams. You can get books transferred between buildings, but it takes an additional half-hour (on top of 45 minutes). Put in a request at Adams (red slips), walk to Jefferson, place requests there (blue slips, see below), and go back to Adams. Alternately, get everything sent to Adams. better reader-to-photocopier ratio.
  • Bring a ballpoint, because all they have are those ridiculous little library golf-pencils with no erasers.
  • You can pretty much wander the halls at will, and it's easy to get lost looking for a restroom or water bubbler. Their signage sucks (exit → ← exit), but the ceilings in the main halls are color-coded.
  • Rare Books is closed on Saturdays.
  • There's a photocopy card vending machine in the Jefferson cloakroom. Copies are 20 per page!
  • Main Reading Room copiers? enter, alcove 7. exit, alcove 8. They have a scanner. Someone will be using the scanner to unselfconsciously image an entire two hundred-year-old dictionary, and there will be a lengthy queue of murderous stares.
  • Ten years ago, I went to the LoC to get copies of uncollected J.D. Salinger short stories that mention Holden Morrisey Caulfield ("Last Day of the Last Furlough," Sat. Eve. Post, 15 July 1944. "Slight Rebellion Off Madison," New Yorker, 21 Dec. 1946). The photocopy card I bought back then still works. Not only did it still work, it still had $7.55 left on it!
  • Don't count on finding a hotdog or pretzel vendor outside. Bullfeathers is close by (but they don't have grape soda).

1536. L.E. Sissman, "Late Empire." Halcyon 1, no. 2 (Spring 1948), 54.
Sissman reviews William Jay Smith, Karl Shapiro, Richard Eberhart, Thomas Merton, Henry Reed, and Stephen Spender.

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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