John Oliver Reed was born in South London. He won scholarships to Bancroft’s School and then to Magdalen College, Oxford. He was appointed lecturer in the English department at the University College of Rhodesia and Nyasaland (later, the University of Zimbabwe) in the late 1950s and early 1960s; then Professor and Head of English at the University of Zambia from 1965 and into the 1970s. He taught English language and literature at Fukuoka University in Japan in the 1980s. He returned to the University of Zimbabwe in his retirement as professor to teach linguistics in the mid-1990s. With his colleague Clive Wake, John published translations of the poetry of francophone Africa, especially the poetry of Senghor. Clive writes of this collaboration and of John’s poetic skills in his Preface to this collection.
John was an intellectually challenging teacher who was a strong influence both on the students and staff of the departments he headed in Africa and Japan, as well as the academic staff of the departments of English that he headed. Many remained his life-long friends and continue to value the insights and affection he shared with them. In his seventies he returned to writing plays and poems, some of which he shared with his poetry group in Manchester, his friends and family. His brother Alan has authorised the publication of this In Memoriam collection of John’s poetry. It includes the poems from John’s adolescence and excerpts from the verse pastiche of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream which John produced at Bancroft’s; the poems and cantatas (with the composer Raymond Warren) at Oxford; his late Manchester poems; and the marvellous birthday poems he wrote for his young great-nephews and greatniece since the millennium.
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