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.




Weblogs, etc.

Posts from February 2011

Reeding Lessons: the Henry Reed research blog


Authoring War

Recently published by Cambridge University Press is Kate McLoughlin's Authoring War: The Literary Representation of War from the Iliad to Iraq. McLoughlin is a Lecturer in English Literature at Birkbeck College, University of London, and has previously edited The Cambridge Companion to War Writing (2009). From the publisher's description:

Kate McLoughlin's Authoring War is an ambitious and pioneering study of war writing across all literary genres from earliest times to the present day. Examining a range of cultures, she brings wide reading and close rhetorical analysis to illuminate how writers have met the challenge of representing violence, chaos and loss. War gives rise to problems of epistemology, scale, space, time, language and logic. She emphasizes the importance of form to an understanding of war literature and establishes connections across periods and cultures from Homer to the 'War on Terror'.

You can also find a substantial preview of Authoring War on Google Books. McLoughlin devotes three pages to Reed's Lessons of the War sequence, from "Naming of Parts" ('begins the process of transforming non-combatant experience through the replacement of civilian by military language and semantics'), through "Returning of Issue":

The final part of 'Lessons of the War' is 'Returning of Issue', which takes the form of a discharge talk by the sergeant. The men are standing inside now because it is autumn, and through the window the recruit-speaker notes a coming down to earth of 'small things' turning and whirling in the wind. He is unable to tell whether these small things are 'leaves or flowers': it is as though his perception has been thoroughly miltarised, so that he is no longer capable of appreciating the realm of almond-blossom, japonica — and love. Indeed, the sergeant remarks, 'I think / I can honestly say you are one and all of you now: / Soldiers'. In this section, as in the others, Reed exploits the military and civilian meanings of a phrase: here, 'Returning of Issue' denotes not only the giving back of kit after service but the prodigal son's return to his father. The recruit-speaker is unable to return to his father — significantly, his parent's fields are 'sold and built on' — and so elects to stay in the army. The actual terrain on which his peacetime identity was grounded has been irretrievably lost, and so he decides to remain, not a person, but 'a personnel'. In turn, he will himself 'teach: / A rhetoric instead of words; instead of love, the use / Of accoutrements'. His consciousness has forever changed — 'I have no longer gift or want' — and so his place must change too.
(p. 105)

Authoring War is due to be released in the States on March 31, and is available for pre-order on Amazon.com.

1530. Radio Times. Billing for "The Book of My Childhood." 19 January 1951, 32.
Scheduled on BBC Midland from 8:15-8:30, an autobiographical(?) programme from Henry Reed.

Muses with Milligan

In 1963, The Goon Show's Spike Milligan co-starred with folk guitarist Steve Benbow in a London stage show at the old Lyric Theatre. Aptly titled Spike Milligan Meets Steve Benbow, this pairing led to the development of a BBC2 television program made up of "irreverently assorted coruscations of jazz and poetry," Muses with Milligan, which ran from December 1964 through October 1965.

Muses with Milligan was an "attempt to work poetry into the normal currency of entertainment," featuring musical acts alternating with Milligan meeting the leading English and Irish poets of the day. John Betjeman was a frequent guest; Adrian Mitchell and Robert Graves made appearances. And here, in an issue of Socialist Commentary from 1967, is this sentence: "Henry Reed reciting his Naming of Parts is a treasured memory from the very mixed Muses with Milligan series."

I don't suppose you'd mind dropping me a copy of that show, Auntie Beeb?

Album cover

A collection of Milligan's witty, nonsense poetry from the show (generally described as Edward Lear-ish), was released in 1965 on a Decca LP (pictured).

«  BBC Television  2  »

1529. Sackville-West, Vita. "Seething Brain." Observer (London), 5 May 1946, 3.
Sackville-West speaks admirably of Reed's poetry, and was personally 'taken with the poem called "Lives," which seemed to express so admirably Mr. Reed's sense of the elusiveness as well as the continuity of life.'

Briggs in Error

In The War of Words (London: Oxford University Press, 1970), volume three of Asa Briggs' giant History of Broadcasting in the United Kingdom, there is a footnote regarding criticism of Louis MacNeice's 1942 radio play, Christopher Columbus, published by Faber & Faber in 1944:

4 New Statesman 1 April 1944: 'Columbus and The Rescue make claims of radio serious and impressive.' Punch (17 May 1944) said that 'the play could stand on its poetry alone'. In The Spectator (22 April 1944), however, Henry Reed described the play as 'rather disappointing'. Columbus, he went on, 'convinces one that some of the advantages which the radio writer thinks he enjoys are really handicaps'. See also The Times, 4 Sept. 1963, for a later assessment.
(p. 585)

The problem being, there was no Spectator for April 22, 1944. The Spectator was published on Fridays, and April 22 was a Saturday. A look at the issues for the first half of that year shows no book reviews for Columbus. The 1963 article in The Times turns out out to be MacNeice's obituary.

There was, however, a New Statesman on April 22. We'll have to have a look at that.

«  Errata  0  »

1528. Manning, Hugo. "Recent Verse." Books of the Day, Guardian (Manchester), 31 July 1946, 3.
Manning feels that 'Mr. Reed has worn thin much of his genuine talent in this direction by too much self-inflicted censorship.'

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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