Thanks to a delightful piece in issue No. 24 of Slightly Foxed, I took a tumble into the world of humorous verse tonight. Oliver Pritchett wrote about a poet of ‘splendid daring‘, who would ‘lay about the language to suit his ends‘ – a poet who was an ‘ingenious rhymester‘.
Thus was I reminded of Ogden Nash, whom I’m sure I’ve read before, but never knowingly. I got a collection of his poems from my library and proceeded to read the whole thing over the course of this evening. My mind is reeling from a couplet overload! I couldn’t put Family Reunion down though – it was too much fun. 🙂
The poems that made up the first section dealt with the joys and trials of raising children, and while some were laugh-out-loud funny, I wasn’t completely convinced. In the second section Nash’s short and clever descriptions of animals showed off his own unique way of working the language more clearly. A favorite:
I kind of like the playful porpoise,
A healthy mind in a healthy corpus.
He and his cousin, the playful dolphin,
Why they like swimming like I like golphin.‘
Since from time to time I’ve written poetry (ha!) and have struggled to make things rhyme, I love the idea of a poet saying, ‘Oh, heck with it!’ and just making up a word!
The third section had an unobtrusive seriousness tangled into poems about adult relationships and making a go at life. I liked this one for it’s joyous playfulness though:
‘No Doctors Today, Thank You
They tell me that euphoria is the feeling of feeling wonderful; well today I feel euphorian,
Today I have the agility of a Greek god and the appetite of a Victorian.
Yes, today I may even go forth without my galoshes;
Today I am a swashbuckler, would anybody like me to buckle and swashes?
This is my euphorian day,
I will ring welkins and before anybody answers I will run away.
I will tame me a caribou
And bedeck it with marabou.
I will pen my memoirs.
Ah youth, youth! What euphorian days them was!
I wasn’t much of a hand for the boudoirs,
I was generally to be found where food was.
Does anybody want any flotsam?
Does anybody want any jetsam?
I can getsam.
I can play “Chopsticks” on the Wurlitzer,
I can speak Portuguese like a Berlitzer.
I can don or doff my shoes without tying or untying the laces because I am wearing moccasins,
And I practically know the difference between serums and antitoccasins.
Kind people, don’t think me purse-proud, don’t set me down as vainglorious,
I’m just a little euphorious.‘
This one does capture the feeling of euphoria, especially since the guy feels so good that he can mention “Chopsticks” in a friendly tone of voice. (In an earlier poem he raged against it, and beginner pianists in general…!)
The poem I liked the best, probably due to it’s very apt timing, is A Word About Winter:
‘Now the frost is on the pane,
Rugs upon the floor again,
Now the screens are in the cellar,
Now the student cons the speller,
Lengthy summer noon is gone,
Twilight treads the heels of dawn,
Round-eyed sun is now a squinter,
Tiptoe breeze a painting sprinter,
Every cloud a blizzard hinter,
Squirrel on the snow a printer,
Rainspout sprouteth icy splinter,
Willy-nilly, this is winter.
Summer-swollen doorjambs settle,
Ponds and puddles turn to metal,
Skater whoops in frisky fettle,
Golf club stingeth like a nettle,
Radiator sings like a kettle,
Hearth is popocatepetl.
Runneth nose and chappeth lip,
Draft evadeth weather strip,
Doctor wreastleth with grippe
In never-ending rivalship.
Rosebush droops in garden shoddy,
Blood is cold and thin in body,
Weary postman dreams of toddy,
Head before the hearth grows noddy.
On the hearth the embers gleam,
Glowing like a maiden’s dream,
Now the apple and the oak
Paint the sky with chimney smoke,
Husband now, without disgrace,
Dumps ash trays in the fireplace.‘
Lovely – captures both the chill of winter, and the delicious coziness of it – and in fabulous couplets! Thanks Nash. I’ll be visiting your rhymeulicious world again soon. 🙂