Ogden Nash was a poet that used nonsensical and humorous verse to draw people into reading his poems. Then, he would slip in insightful poems that speak a lot about life. His light verse even earned him a place on a postage stamp. His poems contain uneven lines that all rhyme, and he even made up spellings to words to achieve the best effect. Frederick Ogden Nash was born August 19, 1902, in New York. His family thought that education was very important, and this was the basis for his love of languages and writing.
At the age of seven, he got an eye infection, so he had to stay in a darkened room for almost a year. During this time, his mother schooled him, and this helped him develop his incredible memory. By the tender age of 10, he was already writing the humorous poetry that he became famous for. He went to Harvard briefly, but his family didn’t have much money, so he had to quit and get a job. His first job was as a high school teacher, then as a bond salesman, then as an advertising copy-writer, then as an editor, and finally as a writer for the “New Yorker.” He published many of his poems in books, but he also made sure to do lecturing, even though he hated it. The lecturing ensured that he would make enough money to support his family.
He died May 19, 1971, in Baltimore, Maryland. His tombstone says that he was a master of light verse. Archibald MacLeish contests that, saying that his poetry is so much more than that. Sure, some of his poems are light and humorous, like The Cow: “The cow is of the bovine ilk; / One end is moo, the other, milk.” Or The Fly: “God in his wisdom made the fly / And then forgot to tell us why.” But there are other poems that show real insight that is true in the world, like the last two lines of Possessions Are Nine Points of Conversation: “I think that comparisons are truly odious, I do not approve of this constant proud or envious to-do; / And furthermore, dear friends, I think that you and yours are delightful and I also think that me and mine are delightful too.” For many of his poems, like Children’s Party or The Romantic Age, he took things from his daily life and wrote about them. In Children’s Party, he discusses the horrors of little children running around and how much he wants to escape them by being in the doghouse with the dog until it’s over. In The Romantic Age, he discusses a teenage girl who fancies her self in love with an unsavory guy and then likens them to Romeo and Juliet.
He then promptly reminds her how their story turned out. It is easy to see how he gets these poems from his own experiences raising his two daughters. Another aspect of his poetry is that in many, he has no specific rhythm. There may be one short line, and then a line that takes up three times as much space.
The only thing that really connects them is the rhyme. An example of this is two lines from Peekaboo, I Almost See You: “So over his facetiousness let us skim, / Only noting that he has been waiting for you ever since you said Good evening to his grandfather clock under the impression that it was him… .” Finally, he rhymed the majority of his poems, sometimes even making up nonsensical spellings for words to add effect. Sometimes, coupled with the uneven lines, this makes it hard to read to read his poems, and you almost have to read them as though they were an essay. A good example of this aspect of his poetry is two lines from No Doctors Today, Thank You: “Does anybody want any flotsam? / I’ve gots am.” Ogden Nash was, in my opinion, an amazing poet. I don’t think I have found a poet that I like better.
My particular favorites are the two short ones mentioned previously, The Cow and The Fly. They are light, humorous, and they brighten my day. Any poem that can make me laugh is definitely a good poem. I am surprised that he isn’t more popular, because everyone that I’ve shown his poems to has laughed as much as I did.