Naming of Parts

Naming of Parts Study Guide

"Lessons of the War I: Naming of Parts" is a poem by British journalist, translator, and poet Henry Reed, written during Reed's experience training as a military translator in Japan during World War II. It was published in the New Statesman and Nation Magazine in 1942. In the poem, a speaker teaches a group of soldiers about the various parts of their military-issued rifles. These images of the machinery of war are juxtaposed with imagery from the natural world. With this juxtaposition, the poem critiques war and militarism; critics have praised its use of the rifle as a premise around which to address larger and more abstract themes.

"Naming of Parts," which consists of five free-verse sextets oriented around the form of the rifle, is the first in a six-part series of war poems entitled "Lessons of the War." It remains the best-known poem of that series, as well as Reed's most widely-read work today. The "Lessons of War" series was later published in Reed's 1946 collection A Map of Verona. The collection went on to be used widely in schools. The poems were also incorporated into a BBC radio show in 1966 that narrated them on air.