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



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 "Montale"

Reeding Lessons: the Henry Reed research blog


Montale's Mottetti

The PN Review has revamped their website in the last year, adding a searchable index and full content for subscribers. Non-subscribers can still access the first few paragraphs of articles, as a preview.

Back in 2008, the PN Review featured Henry Reed's (until then) unpublished translations of Nobel Prize-winning Eugenio Montale's mottetti, edited by Marco Sonzogni, who provided a fascinating afterword describing Reed's manuscripts at the University of Birmingham.

On the PN review you can see a preview of Reed's translation of the first of Montale's motets:

The Pledge [Motet I]
Lo sai: debbo riperderti e non posso.
Come un tiro aggiustato mi sommuove
ogni opera, ogni grido e anche lo spiro
salino che straripa
dai moli e fa l'oscura primavera
di Sottoripa.

Paese di ferrame e alberature
a selva nella polvere del vespro.
Un ronzío lungo viene dall'aperto,
strazia com'unghia ai vetri. Cerco il segno
smarrito, il pegno solo ch'ebbi in grazia
da te.
        E l'inferno è certo.
Several folks wrote letters to the Review following the publication of the Mottetti, to argue some of the finer points of Reed's translations. This issue and others are available for purchase from the Carcanet website.

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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.

Henry Reed in the PN Review

Okay, let's see: if I get up early Saturday, I can get my laundry done by about eleven a.m., get home and put my clothes away, and then point the car west toward the nearest library with a subscription to the PN Review.

PN Review

PN Review 180 (vol. 34, no. 4 [Mar/Apr 2008]: p. 36-41) apparently contains Henry Reed's translations of Eugenio Montale's "Mottetti," twenty poems (motets) originally published in Italy, in Montale's Le occasioni (The Occasions, 1939). This is wonderful news! Here's the description from EBSCOHost's database:
The article provides information on Henry Reed's translations of poetry by Eugenio Montale. It was previously noted that Reed's completed but unpublished translations of Montale are lively even though Montale himself was an abundant source of pessimism. The manuscripts of Reed's translations of Montale's poems are housed in the Special Collections of the Main Library of the University of Birmingham in England, where Reed completed his undergraduate and postgraduate studies. The sequence of poems known as Mottetti, translated by Reed, is presented.
The last time Reed's translations of the Mottetti came to my attention was in 2006, when I found a mention by Harry Thomas in his collection of Montale translations (London: Penguin, 2002; New York: Handsel, 2005). And now they're in print!

The subsequent issue of PN Review (May/Jun 2008) contains two letters to the editor in response to Reed's translations. If they turn out to have significant new information, I'll have to buy copies of both issues! Individual copies are available for purchase from Carcanet Press.

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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.'

Love, Italian Style

I have a backlog of items to dump into the bibliography. Forests of printouts languish, unindexed. By the time I return to them, I'll have forgotten why I printed them out in the first place. Titles like: Common Ground: An Anthology, The Poem in Question, and Poetry of the Second World War: An International Anthology (all of which reprint "Naming of Parts"); American Women Photographers: A Selected and Annotated Bibliography (lists Rollie McKenna's portrait of Reed); King Edward's School, Birmingham: 1552-1952; John Lehmann: A Tribute; and Twentieth Century Italian Literature in English Translation: An Annotated Bibliography, 1929-1997.

Significantly, there is also Montale in English, the Preface to which contains this lament by the editor, Harry Thomas:

In the end I have decided to include the work of fixty-six translators, but I might have included that of dozens more. The one real regret I have, though, is the absence from this anthology of several translations — Henry Reed's rendering of the great Mottetti, for instance — which repose unprintably in archives.

Thomas is referring to Reed translating into English a series of love song-poems (motets), by the Italian poet Eugenio Montale who, in 1975, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Montale in English

In his Introduction to the Collected Poems, Stallworthy mentions Reed having "drafted and all but finished polishing" his translation of Montale's Mottetti, but the work never reached publication, and must still be among his papers and notebooks at the University of Birmingham.

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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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