PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
Mark FordLetters And So It Goes
Letters from Young Mr Grace
(aka John Ashbery)

(PN Review 239)
Kei Millerthe Fat Black Woman
In Praise of the Fat Black Woman & Volume

(PN Review 241)
Henry Kingon Toby Martinez de las Rivas
(PN Review 244)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Next Issue Jen Schmitt on Ekphrasis Rachel Hadas on Text and Pandemic Kirsty Gunn Essaying two Jee Leong Koh Palinodes in the Voice of my Dead Father Maureen Mclane Correspondent Breeze
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
PNR 250 Poetry Archive Banner
Monthly Carcanet Books
PN Review Blog

This review is taken from PN Review 87, Volume 19 Number 1, September - October 1992.

MISSED CHANCES Henry Reed, Collected Poems, edited and introduced by Jon Stallworthy (Oxford University Press) £20.00

In his Introduction, Jon Stallworthy mentions (in order to demolish it) the common perception of Henry Reed as 'the saddest freak of the literary fairground: the one-poem poet', along with Julian Grenfell - and, he might have added, F T Prince, whose reputation was for years based almost exclusively on 'Soldiers Bathing'. Prince, of course, has had a successful academic career and has enjoyed a resurgence of creative energy, while Reed, two years his junior, died forgotten and impoverished in 1986.

His neglect was due to a combination of bad judgement and bad luck. He spent fruitless years working on a life of Hardy, abandoned in the mid-fifties; he wrote jokily highbrow radio plays, and famously created the character of Hilda Tablet, when the main drift was towards television and middlebrow naturalism; the texts he translated for the theatre seldom had lasting success on stage or in print. His private life never fully recovered from the break-up of his relationship with Michael Ramsbotham in 1950.

Neither, it seems, did his poetry. The trouble is not simply that the poems by which we already know him - Lessons of the War, and especially 'Naming of Parts' - are outstanding, but that their qualities are so specific: through rhythmic poise, repetition, and shrewd juxtaposition, they transform clichés of military jargon into memorable utterance. Other poems from Reed's first collection, A Map of Verona (1946), use similar techniques to good effect: 'Hiding Beneath the Furze', for instance, in ...


Searching, please wait... animated waiting image