Ogden Nash

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Ogden Nash
Ogden Nash.jpg
Born Frederic Ogden Nash
(1902-08-19)August 19, 1902
Rye, New York
Died May 19, 1971(1971-05-19) (aged 68)
Baltimore, Maryland
Education Harvard University (for 1 year)
Occupation Poet, author, lyricist
Spouse(s) Frances Leonard
Parents Edmund and Mattie

Frederic Ogden Nash (August 19, 1902 – May 19, 1971) was an American poet well known for his light verse. At the time of his death in 1971, The New York Times said his "droll verse with its unconventional rhymes made him the country's best-known producer of humorous poetry".[1] Nash wrote over 500 pieces of comic verse. The best of his work was published in 14 volumes between 1931 and 1972.

Early life[edit]

Nash was born in Rye, New York. The 1940 Census lists him as having been born in Seattle.[citation needed] His father owned and operated an import-export company, and because of business obligations, the family relocated often. Nash was descended from the brother of General Francis Nash, who gave his name to Nashville, Tennessee.[2]

Throughout his life, Nash loved to rhyme. "I think in terms of rhyme, and have since I was six years old," he stated in a 1958 news interview.[3] He had a fondness for crafting his own words whenever rhyming words did not exist, though admitting that crafting rhymes was not always the easiest task.[3]

His family lived briefly in Savannah, GA in a carriage house owned by Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts of the USA; he wrote a poem about Mrs. Low's House. After graduating from St. George's School in Newport County, Rhode Island, Nash entered Harvard University in 1920, only to drop out a year later.

He returned as a teacher to St. George's for one year before returning to New York.[4] There, he took up selling bonds, about which Nash reportedly quipped "Came to New York to make my fortune as a bond salesman and in two years sold one bond—to my godmother. However, I saw lots of good movies."[4] Nash then took a position as a writer of the streetcar card ads for Barron Collier,[4] a company that previously had employed another Baltimore resident, F. Scott Fitzgerald. He spent three months in 1931 working on the editorial staff for The New Yorker.[4][5]

In 1931 he married Frances Leonard.[6] He published his first collection of poems, Hard Lines, that same year, earning him national recognition. Some of his poems reflected an anti-establishment feeling. For example, one verse, titled Common Sense, asks:

Why did the Lord give us agility,
If not to evade responsibility?

In 1934, Nash moved to Baltimore, Maryland, where he remained until his death in 1971. Nash thought of Baltimore as home. After his return from a brief move to New York, he wrote "I could have loved New York had I not loved Balti-more."

Writing career[edit]

When Nash wasn't writing poems, he made guest appearances on comedy and radio shows and toured the United States and the United Kingdom, giving lectures at colleges and universities.

Nash was regarded respectfully by the literary establishment, and his poems were frequently anthologized even in serious collections such as Selden Rodman's 1946 A New Anthology of Modern Poetry.

Nash was the lyricist for the Broadway musical One Touch of Venus, collaborating with librettist S. J. Perelman and composer Kurt Weill. The show included the notable song "Speak Low". He also wrote the lyrics for the 1952 revue Two's Company.

Nash and his love of the Baltimore Colts were featured in the December 13, 1968 issue of Life,[7] with several poems about the American football team matched to full-page pictures. Entitled "My Colts, verses and reverses", the issue includes his poems and photographs by Arthur Rickerby. "Mr. Nash, the league leading writer of light verse (Averaging better than 6.3 lines per carry), lives in Baltimore and loves the Colts", it declares. The comments further describe Nash as "a fanatic of the Baltimore Colts, and a gentleman". Featured on the magazine cover is defensive player Dennis Gaubatz, number 53, in midair pursuit with this description: "That is he, looming 10 feet tall or taller above the Steelers' signal caller...Since Gaubatz acts like this on Sunday, I'll do my quarterbacking Monday." Memorable Colts Jimmy Orr, Billy Ray Smith, Bubba Smith, Willie Richardson, Dick Szymanski and Lou Michaels contribute to the poetry.

Among his most popular writings were a series of animal verses, many of which featured his off-kilter rhyming devices. Examples include "If called by a panther / Don't anther"; "Who wants my jellyfish? / I'm not sellyfish!".

Death and subsequent events[edit]

Nash died at Baltimore's Johns Hopkins Hospital on May 19, 1971, from Crohn's disease aggravated by a lactobacillus infection transmitted by improperly prepared coleslaw.[1] He is interred in East Side Cemetery in North Hampton, New Hampshire.

A biography, Ogden Nash: the Life and Work of America's Laureate of Light Verse, was written by Douglas M. Parker, published in 2005 and in paperback in 2007. The book was written with the cooperation of the Nash family, and quotes extensively from Nash's personal correspondence as well as his poetry.

His daughter Isabel was married to noted photographer Fred Eberstadt, and his granddaughter, Fernanda Eberstadt, is an acclaimed author. Nash had one other daughter, Linell Nash Smith.

Poetic style[edit]

Nash was best known for surprising, pun-like rhymes, sometimes with words deliberately misspelled for comic effect, as in his retort to Dorothy Parker's humorous dictum, Men seldom make passes/At girls who wear glasses:

A girl who is bespectacled
She may not get her nectacled

He often wrote in an exaggerated verse form with pairs of lines that rhyme, but are of dissimilar length and irregular meter:

Once there was a man named Mr. Palliser and he asked his wife, May I be a gourmet?
And she said, You sure may,

Nash's poetry was often a playful twist of an old saying or poem. For one example, he expressed this playfulness in what is perhaps his most famous rhyme, a twist on Joyce Kilmer's poem "Trees" (1913): "I think that I shall never see / a poem lovely as a tree", which drops "billboard" in place of poem and adds, "Indeed, unless the billboards fall / I'll never see a tree at all."[8] That same playfulness produced a number of often quoted quips, including "Progress might have been all right once, but it has gone on too long" and "People who work sitting down get paid more than people who work standing up."

Other poems[edit]

Nash was a baseball fan, and he wrote a poem titled "Line-Up for Yesterday", an alphabetical poem listing baseball immortals.[9] Published in Sport magazine in January 1949, the poem pays tribute to the baseball greats and to his own fandom, in alphabetical order. Here is a sampling from his A to Z list:[10]

C is for Cobb, Who grew spikes and not corn, And made all the basemen Wish they weren't born.
D is for Dean, The grammatical Diz, When they asked, Who's the tops? Said correctly, I is.
E is for Evers, His jaw in advance; Never afraid To Tinker with Chance.
F is for Fordham And Frankie and Frisch; I wish he were back With the Giants, I wish.

He also wrote a poem called "more about people" which criticises employers who ill treat others.

Nash particularly loved Baltimore sports teams.

Nash wrote humorous poems for each movement of the Camille Saint-Saëns orchestral suite The Carnival of the Animals, which are sometimes recited when the work is performed. The original recording of this version was made by Columbia Records in the 1940s, with Noël Coward reciting the poems and Andre Kostelanetz conducting the orchestra.

Many of his poems, reflecting the times in which they were written, presented stereotypes of different nationalities. For example in Genealogical Reflections he writes:

No McTavish
Was ever Lavish

In The Japanese published in 1938, Nash presents an allegory for the expansionist policies of the Empire of Japan:

How courteous is the Japanese
He always says, Excuse it, please
He climbs into his neighbor’s garden
And smiles, and says, I beg your pardon
He bows and grins a friendly grin
And calls his hungry family in
He grins, and bows a friendly bow
So sorry, this my garden now

Ogden Nash stamp[edit]

The US Postal Service released a postage stamp featuring Ogden Nash and text from six of his poems on the centennial of his birth on 19 August 2002. The six poems are "The Turtle", "The Cow", "Crossing The Border", "The Kitten", "The Camel", and "Limerick One". It was the first stamp in the history of the USPS to include the word "sex", although as a synonym for gender. It can be found under the "O" and is part of "The Turtle". The stamp is the eighteenth in the Literary Arts section.[11] Four years later, the first issue took place in Baltimore on August 19. The ceremony was held at the home that he and his wife Frances shared with his parents on 4300 Rugby Road, where he did most of his writing.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Candy is Dandy by Ogden Nash, Anthony Burgess, Linell Smith, and Isabel Eberstadt. Carlton Books Ltd, 1994. ISBN 0-233-98892-0
  • Custard the Dragon and the Wicked Knight by Ogden Nash and Lynn Munsinger. Little, Brown Young Readers, 1999. ISBN 0-316-59905-0
  • I'm a Stranger Here Myself by Ogden Nash. Buccaneer Books, 1994. ISBN 1-56849-468-8
  • The Old Dog Barks Backwards by Ogden Nash. Little Brown & Co, 1972. ISBN 0-316-59804-6
  • Ogden Nash's Zoo by Ogden Nash and Etienne Delessert. Stewart, Tabori, and Chang, 1986. ISBN 0-941434-95-8
  • Pocket Book of Ogden Nash by Ogden Nash. Pocket, 1990. ISBN 0-671-72789-3
  • Selected Poetry of Ogden Nash by Ogden Nash. Black Dog & Levanthal Publishing, 1995. ISBN 1-884822-30-8
  • The Tale of Custard the Dragon by Ogden Nash and Lynn Munsinger. Little, Brown Young Readers, 1998. ISBN 0-316-59031-2
  • Bed Riddance by Ogden Nash. Little Brown & Co, 1969. ASIN B000EGGXD8
  • "Versus" by Ogden Nash. Little, Brown, & Co, 1949.
  • Good Intentions by Ogden Nash. Little Brown & Co, 1942. ISBN 978-1-125-65764-5
  • "The Face is Familiar: The Selected Verse of Ogden Nash" by Ogden Nash. Garden City Publishing Company, Inc., 1941.
  • There's Always Another Windmill by Ogden Nash. Little Brown & Co, 1968. ISBN 0-316-59839-9
  • Private Dining Room by Ogden Nash. Little Brown & Co, 1952. ASIN B000H1Z8U4
  • Many Long Years Ago by Ogden Nash. Little Brown & Co, 1945. ISBN B000OELG1O
  • You Can't Get There From Here by Ogden Nash. Little Brown & Co, 1957.
  • I'm a Stranger Here Myself by Ogden Nash. Little Brown & Co, 1938
  • Everyone But Thee and Me by Ogden Nash. Boston : Little, Brown, 1962.
  • "Collected Verse from 1929 On" by Ogden Nash. Lowe & Brydone (Printers) Ltd., London, for J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd. 1972

Individual poems[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Albin Krebs (May 20, 1971). "Ogden Nash, Master of Light Verse, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-01-24. "Ogden Nash, whose droll verse with its unconventional rhymes made him the country's best-known producer of humorous poetry, died yesterday at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. His age was 68." 
  2. ^ Adventures Of Isabel, by Ogden Nash - Classic Famous Poet - All Poetry.
  3. ^ a b Hal Boyle (1958-12-01). "Ogden Nash Finds Light Verse Doesn't Flow Easy" (Reprint). Prescott Evening Courier. Associated Press. Retrieved 2008-10-19. 
  4. ^ a b c d Phillips, Louis (2005). "Reviewed work(s): Ogden Nash: The Life and Work of America's Laureate of Light Verse by Douglas M. Parker". The Georgia Review 59 (4): 961. Retrieved 10 October 2013. 
  5. ^ Hasley, Louis (1971). "The Golden Trashery of Ogden Nashery". The Arizona Quarterly 27 (3): 242. 
  6. ^ "Ogden Nash." The Baltimore Literary Heritage Project
  7. ^ Nash, Ogden (1968-12-13). "My Colts, verses and reverses" (– Scholar search). Life. Retrieved 2008-05-29. [dead link][dead link]
  8. ^ Nash, Ogden, "Song of the Open Road, The Face Is Familiar (Garden City Publishing, 1941), p. 21.
  9. ^ Tim Wiles (1996-03-31). "Who's on Verse?". The New York Times. Archived from the original on December 17, 2000. Retrieved 2008-01-23. 
  10. ^ "Baseball Almanac". Retrieved 2008-01-23. 
  11. ^ http://about.usps.com/news/national-releases/2008/sr08_015.htm

External links[edit]