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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.

Read "Naming of Parts."

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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.
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«  Old Soldiers  »

Reeding Lessons: the Henry Reed research blog

25.11.2017


Old Soldiers

I've never shied from putting up bad reviews of Henry Reed's poetry. It's possible, even, to take some small, secret pride when Randall Jarrell calls Reed, in 1948, "a nap after dinner." Many critics find Reed to be too reminiscent of Auden and Eliot and, with the exception of his parodies, some even think Reed's work is altogether unoriginal, uninspired, or (like Jarrell) just plain tiresome. Still, almost without exception, most critics manage to find one or two poems which they can call insightful, unique, or skilled in execution.

Such is the case with Herbert Lomas, reviewing Reed's Collected Poems for The London Magazine in 1992. Lomas recalls, upon reading A Map of Verona in 1946, that he found Reed "boringly written." He then proceeds to rediscover all the disinteresting adjectives and adverbs, the "clichés and doggerel," and "dim" language. At times, Lomas almost seems to be reviewing the introduction to the Collected Poems, rather than the poems, themselves: everything Stallworthy finds praiseworthy, Lomas finds at fault.

Cover

Herbert Lomas was born in 1924, making him nearly Reed's peer; more so, perhaps, since Lomas served in the infantry during World War II, including two years with the Indian Army's Garhwal Rifles, in the North-West Frontier. At the outset of his review, Lomas admits he "rejoiced" at Reed's "Naming of Parts," which must been repeated like a pop song by well-read soldiers of the Second World War. Indeed, here is a poem by Lomas himself, with a familiar-sounding voice: "Lincoln, Autumn 1943."

Now, lest you think I am attempting some sort of argumentum ad hominem, I will add that Lomas does, in fact, have some very complimentary things to say about Reed's poems. "The Château"—which Lomas quotes at length—"has a plangent cadence, syntactical rhythms, a climactic long trail, and there is potential sublimity in the notion." This is Reed, "at his best." He is "extremely intelligent and gifted," and "no doubt charming," but his serious verse lacks, for Lomas, the smartness and surprising turns to be found in the humorous poems. Altogether, a not-entirely unfair assessment.

Henry might even see the humor in this: a bad review for his birthday.


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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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