Wednesday, December 08, 2004

The Man.

I first become acquainted with Ogden Nash three years ago, when I chanced upon one of his entertaining poems in Language Play, authored by David Crystal (more in another post). His poem, Ode to a Baby, was so delightful that I decided to use it for a poetry reading sponsored by the DLSU Malate Lit Folio.

It goes like this:

A bit of talcum
Is always walcum.

Nash, known for his quick wit in assembling words and oftentimes making up words of his own, quickly descended into the American consciousness during the 30s all the way to the 60s. Another example of his sparkling wit is evidenced by his parody of Trees, that famous poem by Joyce Kilmer (and which parts you can see dotted along the South Super Highway):

I think that I shall never see
A billboard lovely as a tree
Indeed, unless the billboards fall
I'll never see a tree at all.

According to his biography on AmericanPoems.com, "His signature style used exaggeration, an element of surprise, and absurdity juxtaposed with the universal experience with which the average reader can identify. He was well regarded by critics and the public alike for his inventive titles, his unlikely rhymes, and his ridiculous play on words."

Nobody could hold a torch to him when it came to ludicrousness and whimsicality. People of all ages and all nationalities loved his work, which also suggests that when it comes to language play, the world is a virtual playground.

Here is a jewel, The Cow:

The cow is of the bovine ilk;
One end is moo, the other, milk.

And another, The Firefly:

The firefly's flame
Is something for which science has no name
I can think of nothing eerier
Than flying around with an unidentified glow on a
person's posteerier.

Nash himself did not grow up in a stable, peaceful time. And yet he suggested that the average man, surviving the perils of the nuclear age, needed not only missiles, submarines, and a fallout shelter, but also a few lighthearted laughs to save him.

It's fitting to end this with one of his best-loved lines:

Candy is dandy
But liquor is quicker.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

i remember reading it from somewhere--guess it was from cirilo bautista--the imagery one gets from reading joyce kilmer's trees. we often take it for granted, but come to think of it, how does this personified tree appear to you:

...whose hungry mouth is pressed against the earth (ang nguso ay napadikit sa lupa)
that looks at god all day (habang ang mga mata'y nakatinghala sa langit)
that lifts her leafy arms all day (nakataas ang mga kamay habang ang nguso ay napadikit sa lupa at mata'y nakatingin sa itaas)

Poems are made by fools like me (indeed, indeed, joyce!)

--berto

1:26 PM  
Blogger Jason Hooten said...

I will now have to look into Ogden Nash. Thank you...usually when I think of Ogden, I think of Utah...which leads me to Utah...then to Mormons...then to anti-depressants. No. I don't know where I'm going with this.

Take care,

Jason

1:37 PM  
Blogger sarah said...

berto: LOL! i bet you'd make a fine, erm, poet. =P

jason: ogden nash is simply unparalleled. :)

11:00 AM  

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