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The Life and Death of Henry Reed

The very fine British poet, Henry Reed, author of A Map of Verona, died 22 years ago today, 8 December, 1986. He has yet to entirely get his due, since he is one of those poets whose work was mainly done in the 1940s, something of a Sargasso Sea when it comes to wrecked reputations. Still, his poetry is beginning to come out of the despond, and Carcanet does a Collected Poems now. Reed is intriguing for any number of reasons, but fans of codes and cyphers may want to know he worked at Bletchley Park during WWII.

Comments

steef said…
That portrait of Reed on the Thames is my favorite, with his contemplative eyebrow raised, and the cigarette burning unremembered in his left hand. You reminded me, today, that I have been neglectful in scanning my (ancient) photocopies of Reed's obituary from the Times, now remedied. It was good of you to remember him on this day. Thanks!

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THE WINNER OF THE SIXTH FORTNIGHT PRIZE IS...



Wheeler Light for 'Life Jacket'.

The runner-up is: Daniel Duffy - 'President Returns To New York For Brief First Visit'

Wheeler Light currently lives in Boulder, Colorado.



Life Jacket

summer camp shirtsI couldn’t fit in then
are half my size nowI wanted to wear
smaller and smallerarticles of clothing
I shrunk to the sizethat disappeared

of an afterthoughtin a sinking ship body
too buoyant to sinktoo waterlogged for land
I becamea dot of sand

JOHN ASHBERY HAS DIED

With the death of the poetic genius John Ashbery, whose poems, translations, and criticism made him, to my mind, the most influential American poet since TS Eliot, 21st century poetry is moving into less certain territory.

Over the past few years, we have lost most of the truly great of our era: Edwin Morgan, Gunn, Hill, Heaney and Walcott, to name just five.  There are many more, of course. This is news too sad and deep to fathom this week.  I will write more perhaps later. 

I had a letter from Ashbery on my wall, and it inspired me daily.  He gave me advice for my PhD. He said kind things about a poetry book of mine.

He was a force for good serious play in poetry, and his appeal great. So many people I know and admire are at a loss this week because of his death. It is no consolation at present to think of the many thousands of living poets, just right now. But impressively, and even oddly, poetry itself seems to keep flowing.