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Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
News & Announcements
About the Poets
Additional Reading
  Henry Reed

Henry Reed (1914-1986) was born in Birmingham, England, earned a B.A. from the University of Birmingham (1937), worked as a teacher and free-lance writer (1937-1941), and served in the British Army (1941-1942). His early poetry dealt with political events before and during World War II. "Naming of Parts" was based on his frustrating experience in cadet training.

His collection of poetry, A Map of Verona (1946), revealed a formal, reverent, but also humorous and ironic voice. Another collection of poetry, Lessons of War, was published in 1970. Reed began writing radio plays in 1947 and has generated as many as four scripts a year. His best-known satirical work is the "Hilda Tablet" series, a 1960's BBC-Radio production that parodied British society of the 1930s.

Henry Reed
(1914 - 1986)


Naming of Parts

To-day we have naming of parts. Yesterday,
We had daily cleaning.  And to-morrow morning,
We shall have what to do after firing.  But to-day,
To-day we have naming of parts.  Japonica
Glistens like coral in all of the neigboring gardens,
        And to-day we have naming of parts.

This is the lower sling swivel.  And this
Is the upper sling swivel, whose use you will see,
When you are given your slings.  And this is the piling swivel,
Which in your case you have not got.  The branches
Hold in the gardens their silent, eloquent gestures,
        Which in our case we have not got.

This is the safety-catch, which is always released
With an easy flick of the thumb.  And please do not let me
See anyone using his finger.  You can do it quite easy
If you have any strength in your thumb.  The blossoms
Are fragile and motionless, never letting anyone see
        Any of them using their finger.

And this you can see is the bolt.  The purpose of this
Is to open the breech, as you see.  We can slide it
Rapidly backwards and forwards: we call this
Easing the spring.  And rapidly backwards and forwards
The early bees are assaulting and fumbling the flowers:
        They call it easing the Spring.

They call it easing the Spring: it is perfectly easy
If you have any strength in your thumb: like the bolt,
And the breech, and the cocking-piece, and the point of balance,
Which in our case we have not got; and the almond-blossom
Silent in all of the gardens and the bees going backwards and forwards,
        For to-day we have naming of parts.