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



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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«  Two Short Reviews  »

Reeding Lessons: the Henry Reed research blog


Two Short Reviews

Much to my surprise, dragging the seemingly bottomless, boundless ocean of Google Book Search continues to net contemporary criticism of Reed's A Map of Verona: Poems, published in March of 1946. The two most recent catches are short critiques found schooling amidst and amongst much larger book review sections in the magazines Britain To-day and John O'London's Weekly.

The latter was the first to appear, in June 1946: "Poets Worth Praising," by Richard Church, author of the World War I poem, "Mud" ('Twenty years ago / My generation learned / To be afraid of mud. / We watched its vileness grow, / Deeper and deeper churned / From earth, spirit, and blood'). In addition to Reed's book, Church reviews The Golden Year of Fan Cheng-Ta by Gerald Bullet, Talking Bronco by Roy Campbell, London Saga by Stowers Johnson, The Voyage by Edwin Muir, and Vita Sackville-West's The Garden. While he devotes little more than three paragraphs to A Map of Verona, Church's evaluation of Reed is unequivocally positive:

John O'London's

He appears as a man of wry, almost sly, humour, endowed with a shrewd critical mind that gives his first work a matter-of-factness wholly acceptable to the fastidious reader's palate. In that technique of dry statement, sometimes almost categorical, you discover a highly individual poetic faculty. It gives his work a stillness that is startling, like the skies in Dali's queer pictures.

A few months later "A Poet of Sensibility" appears, in the October, 1946 issue of Britain To-day. I had brief hopes that this review had been penned by the pre-eminent critic and scholar, Kathleen Raine (Raine's article "English Poetry Since 1939" appears in this issue), but it turned out to have been written by an obscure poet and critic, A.C. Boyd. Boyd is quick to mention Reed's debt to Eliot, but doesn't find Reed slavish, as many other critics do:

Britain To-day

We know of Mr. Reed's admiration for T.S. Eliot and Edith Sitwell, but he is no slavish imitator of either of them, indeed his talent is unusually original and spontaneous. For sheer invention we can turn to Lessons of the War, in which the poet has reproduced the gabble of the sergeant-instructor on Unarmed Combat and so forth and shot it through with most sensitive observations and a lightning play of wit—a seriocomic fantasia which is a joy to meet.

There is passing mention of "Chard Whitlow," and praise for both the early poems as well as the Antigone monologues, but Boyd concludes by extolling Reed's series of four poems on the Arthurian legend of Tristan and Iseult:

The dramatic monologue, the recounted allegory, here passion, irony, and a critical intelligence and boundless curiosity to explore experience can find full play. But in his use of what one might call the inflected 'voice' he is never extravagantly rhetorical, in fact he speaks often enough in a near-prose murmur; he can be deliberately ingenuous or rise to a tragic intensity all in the same poem. He has equal command of the long, modulated sentence as of the more limpid, short line. Everything in this small book is of interest, but the haunting beauty and sweep of imagination of the Tintagel poems is something to be thankful for in these days of austerity.

Boyd himself is obscure enough that he doesn't even rate his own Wikipedia page. Almost all I can discover about him comes from a 1939 issue of Denys Kilham Roberts' Penguin Parade, which features Boyd's poem, "Death of a Poet" ("Cover the frost-bitten features, the twisted hand; / Straighten the shattered limbs, / And the eyes, icicled, that could not weep"). The contributors' notes state he was born in 1902, and that he was raised in India, where his father was a judge. He was educated at University College, London, and held a diploma in librarianship.

According to A Companion to Pablo Neruda (2008, p. 164), Boyd and his architect brother Andrew were the first to translate the Chilean poet's works into English, Andrew having befriended Neruda in Sri Lanka (then Ceylon), around 1936.

Add Notation:


Notation for "Two Short Reviews":
Allowed: <a> <em> <strong>
What is Henry Reed's first name?

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.

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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