Henry Reed

From Academic Kids

Henry Reed (February 22, 1914 - December 8, 1986) was a British poet, translator, radio dramatist and journalist.

He was born in Birmingham and educated at a local grammar school, followed by Birmingham University. At university he associated with W. H. Auden, Louis MacNeice and Walter Allen. He went on to study for an MA and then worked as a teacher and journalist. He was called up to the Army in 1941, spending most of the war as a Japanese translator.

After the war he worked for the BBC as a radio broadcaster and playwright, where his most memorable set of productions was the Hilda Tablet series in the 1950s. The series started with A very great man indeed, which purported to be a documentary about the research for a biography of a dead poet called Richard Shewin. However, the 'twelve-tone composeress' Hilda Tablet, a friend of the late Richard Shewin, became the most interesting character in the play and in the next play, she persuades the biographer to change the subject of the biography to her - telling him "not more than twelve volumes". Dame Hilda, as she later became, was based partly on Ethel Smyth and partly on Elisabeth Lutyens (who was not pleased, and considered legal action).

His most famous poem is Naming of Parts, a witty parody of army basic training. Published in A Map of Verona in 1946, it was his only collection to be published within his lifetime. Unfortunately for Reed he was forever being confused with the much better known Sir Herbert Read; Reed retaliated by naming his alter ego biographer in the Hilda Tablet plays "Herbert Reeve" and then by having everyone else get the name slightly wrong.

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