Born in Birmingham, England, poet Henry Reed was the son of a master bricklayer. He earned a BA and an MA at the University of Birmingham and wrote his thesis on Thomas Hardy. Reed served in naval intelligence during World War II. He contributed poetry, criticism, plays, and adaptations of older works to British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) radio from 1944 to 1979.
Reed published only one volume of poetry during his lifetime: A Map of Verona (1946), which includes his much-anthologized poem “Naming of Parts.” His Collected Poems (1991), edited by Jon Stallworthy, includes a significant selection of previously unpublished work. Reed’s poems are often marked by a sharp wit and occasionally elements of satire or parody. Reviewing Reed’s Collected Poems for the Guardian, Adam Phillips observed, “Reed has a plain eloquence for what goes wrong and for what then holds absurdity at bay.” Discussing Reed’s poem “The Door and the Window,” Phillips noted that “Reed wants to show us, without melodrama, how disoriented we are by what language lets us do, what language lets us notice.”
Reed’s verse dramas and radio plays are collected in The Streets of Pompeii and Other Plays for Radio (1971) and Hilda Tablet and Others (1971). He is also the author of the critical study The Novel Since 1939 (1946). A selection of his papers and manuscripts is held at the University of Birmingham library.
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