Monday, December 7, 2009

Ogden Nash on Baltimore vs. Green Bay

Tonight's NFL Ravens-Packer match-up reminds Rick Johnson of when the Baltimore Colts forced a play-off game with archrival Green Bay 44 years ago. The play of the Colt's third string quarterback later inspired Ogden Nash to versify:

Is there a Baltimore fan alive
who's forgotten Tom Matte in '65?
The Colts by crippling injuries vexed,
Unitas first and Cuozzo next--
What would become of the pass attack?
Then Matte stepped in at quarterback.
He beat the Rams in a great display,
He did - and he damn near beat Green Bay.
Ask him today to plunge or block,
Tom's the man who can roll or rock.
In Tokyo, they say karate
In Baltimore, they call it Matte

This was a stanza in a wonderful feature that Nash did for Life Magazine on his beloved Baltimore Colts in 1968. While reminiscent of Nash honoring baseball's all-time greats in 'Lineup for Yesterday' , it's Colt-centricity makes it very unique. What other team can boast having a ballad written about them by America's Poet Laureate? The photo-journalistic-poetic pages:(Click the photo to enlarge for easier reading)

The above courtesy of Google Books.

Back to Rick Johnson's memories of the December, 1965 Packers- Colts game, he writes:

Baltimore vs. Green Bay is etched in the lore of the football gods. And no, I’m not talking about the standout performance from this past Monday Night. Stay with me for awhile. The following will bring back to life, if only for a few moments, a Baltimore football classic from a different day, a different genre.

Imagine a NFL team going into a playoff game without a passing attack. Imagine a defensive coordinator who must only plan against a third-string quarterback (who really plays halfback) who doesn’t know the plays, and places his team at a disadvantage the moment he attempts a forward pass. The adversary calls it lady luck. The professional calls it an opportunity.

Minus their first and second string quarterbacks, Johnny Unitas and Gary Cuozzo, the 1965 Baltimore Colts forced a playoff game with their arch-rival Green Bay Packers to determine the Western Division champion, by defeating the Los Angeles Rams in their final regular season game. The Packers, who tied San Francisco in their regular season finale, thus forcing the playoff game, won Commissioner Pete Rozelle’s coin toss to host the game at Lambeau Field.

You can read the entire post here.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

A Prayer for Charitable Giving by Ogden Nash

A good friend just gave me a history of of St. Andrews by the Sea in Rye Beach, NH. It contains an O.N. poem when he was a member of the Parish Committee, that no doubt engendered smiles and donations.

Saint Andrew was a fisher
In the Galilean Sea
He left his nets upon the shore
When his Lord said "Follow Me."

Saint Andrew went rejoicing
He served without regrets
But in his namesake parish
We sorely need his nets

All you who know Saint Andrew's
Now let your hearts be roused
The Church must be in order set
The Clergy must be housed

The parish we loved in summer
In winter we forget
And therefor with this message
Is cast Saint Andrew's net

The yearly cost grows greater
The yearly yield is small
Oh Lord who blessed Saint Andrew
Send us one shining haul.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Ogden Nash Anecdotes and Unpublished Poems

Do you have an Ogden Nash anecdote or unpublished Nash verse? The North Hampton Public Library is collecting stories about the versifier and his private poems for an upcoming exhibit. Susan Grant, the library's director, would welcome hearing what you have to share. Please call her at 603-964-6326 or send an e-mail.

Here are two recently submitted unpublished poems that Nash wrote for a Little Boars Head couple's anniversary and first grandchild:

Vernacular Lines For a Spectacular Occasion: A Belated Anniversicle

Let’s rise to toast divine Rebecca,
Matt’s own Episcopalian Mecca.
Small wonder, since at college, I’ll wager
She was a Matthewmatics major.
From top to toe, from lip to leg,
The Rector’s coddled like an egg;
Indeed at many a schoolboy session
He’s known as Mrs. Warren’s Profession.
This eulogy’s for his loving bride;
He gets to go just for the ride.

Many happy Matt’s Becky!
June 12, 1965

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Summering with Nash

With the leaves poised to turn, it's time to review Nashian notes from the summer of '09:

The "Pocket Book of Ogden Nash" was on Oprah's Summer Reading List. While "The Best of Ogden Nash " was recommended by La Voz, The Voice of De Anza College in Cupertino as " the most intentionally funny poetry you'll read all year."

Over the 4th of July weekend Wino Sapien recommended Isabel Sauvignon blanc 2008 to combat the confluence of Swine flu, children, work and wine. In the "Adventures of Isabel", Nash's daughter and poetic heroine " met a troublesome doctor...who really shocked her... yet ultimately Isabel took the pills from the concoctor and cured the doctor. Here's the full stanza on the alternative remedy:

He punched and he poked till he really shocked her.
The doctor's talk was of coughs and chills
And the doctor's satchel bulged with pills.
The doctor said unto Isabel,
Swallow this, it will make you well.
Isabel, Isabel, didn't worry,
Isabel didn't scream or scurry.
She took those pills from the pill concoctor,
And Isabel calmly cured the doctor.

Feeling better and shifting into cocktail hour, Readable Watchable Edible Potable a blog about
Food and Drink in Books and Film, presented a collection of Ogden Nash's " witty observations on sundry liqueurs" including these excerpts:

Mint Julep:

There is something about a mint julep.
It is nectar imbibed in a dream,
As fresh as the bud of the tulip,
As cool as the bed of the stream...


There is something they put in a highball
That awakens the torpidest brain,
That kindles a spark in the eyeball,
Gliding, singing through vein after vein...

The Old-Fashioned:

There is something about an old-fashioned
That kindles a cardiac glow;
It is soothing and soft and impassioned
As a lyric by Swinburne or Poe...

Full poems here.

One's passion for drink can sometimes runneth over as when Dorothy Parker wrote: "I'd Rather Have a Bottle in Front of Me Than a Frontal Lobotomy", a verse sometimes credited to Nash. However, Kari-Fuda on Flickr is not so inebriated as to attribute it properly.

On a more wholesome note, Nicole from Sydney was inspired to post Custard the Dragon for poetry month. Nicole then learned that it is also realio, trulio required reading for one of her younger readers during dessert.

Pun Intended: In their blog on travel tips Limerick Travel posted that "for every problem – adult or child, dental or mental, domesticated or wildlife, there is a Nash-ty solution."

Austin TX grad student 'Metal' used to devour Nash's books back in high school. He rediscovered Nash over the summer, finding Ogden Nash to be "the literary equivalent of having roasted peanuts between sips of beer" and " slices of humor between chunks of heavy reading" Metal is truly a voracious reader who may need a sandwich soon.

For the starving fiancee, looking for a distinctive summer wedding Credit Crunch Bride recommended Ogden Nash's 'My Dream' as an alternative wedding reading to "1 Corinthians Chapter 13 and other patronizing lectures on how to have a good marriage, that don’t mention that sickening word ‘joy’ too much."

This is my dream,
It is my own dream,
I dreamt it.
I dreamt that my hair was kempt.
Then I dreamt that my true love unkempt it.

First Comes Marriage: Iron Chef Cat Cora gave birth to her 4th child with her wife Jennifer. reports that Nash Cora is named for Ogden Nash and Nobel mathematician John Forbes Nash, (A Beautiful Mind). Sources confirm that he is specifically not named after jazz drummer Lewis Nash, NBA All-Star Steve Nash or CSNY legend Graham Nash.

Indian Summer Theater: The India Times reports that the play "When God Said Cheers" featuring a divine entity who quotes Ogden Nash, has been performed over 200 times in 7 years to appreciative Ahmedabadians. The 'cool' God takes "occasional sips from a pint of beer and nibbling on peanuts, has some very interesting things to say to the common man."

The versifier's works tend to be popular in the former english speaking dominions of PAX Brittanica.

Kentucky artist Ed Franklin launched his "A Doll A Day in June" adventure with a Nashian twist. Franklin posted the clue "811.52 N175b 2007 online. Sarabeth Brownrobie was the first to figure out that the caption was a Dewey Decimal System number. Franklin's doll was at the Lexington Public Library downtown — perched on a shelf in front of the book The Best of Ogden Nash.

During June graduation season in Jacksonville, Nash visited Scarlet at her old high school and gave her " A Word to Husbands" before her spouse turned on the light and told her to wake up.

Dinged Corners recreated "Lineup for Yesterday" with vintage images of Nash's baseball heroes.
'C' is for Cobb,
who grew spikes and not corn,
And made all the basemen
Wish they weren't born

From Ty to the Fly: A grandmother living in the Sierra Nevada's was being pestered by this winged devil until she smiled and remembered the first poem she ever learned was about this summer resident: "God in his wisdom made the fly / And then forgot to tell us why."

Machiavelli's Vacation Reading: American Thinker felt the anti-Democratic extremism of the summer was " ugly and unbecoming". He urged restraint, citing Nash as parable:

Pray, butcher, spare yon tender calf!
Accept my plea on his behalf;
He's but a babe, too young by far
To perish in the abattoir.
Oh, cruel butcher, let him feed
And gambol on the verdant mead;
Let clovertops and grassy banks
Fill out those childish ribs and flanks.
Then may we, at some future meal,
Pitch into beef, instead of veal.

For the record, Ogden Nash was a non-partisan political lampooner, who preferred to surgically take aim at unjust and hypocritical acts rather than take broadsides at Democrats or Republicans.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Celebrating Nash's Legacy in North Hampton

Ogden Nash was recently featured in two special events in New Hampshire.

The tribute began with an early evening tour of Nash's former seaside estate, courtesy of owners Bob & Sherry Lauter. The house is beautifully situated on a rise overlooking the Atlantic and the rock dotted beach. According to his grandaughter Frances, Nash swam there daily from Memorial Day to Labor Day, irrespective of the cold temperatures.

As we walked through the house Bob related the Nash lore he's received from friends and Nash's family since they purchased the home a few years ago. Much of the character and features of the 1870's of mansard roofed house has been preserved. Although it's far from a stuffy Victorian. The front rooms have fantastic views. The second floor has 11 foot ceilings and wide plank floors. While the red Formica counter tops are gone, the original kitchen cabinets are still there and one can easily envision Nash looking for more barbecue sauce or a midnight snack.

The next event was " Home is Heaven: 32 Poems by Ogden original staging of Nash poems which celebrate his family and their summers by the seashore", staged by M. Marguerite Mathews and Gregory Gathers of the Pontine Theatre Company.

The production animating Nash's poems about family life at the seashore made for superb synergy after the tour of his home. The day's events were the work of Susan Grant, Director of North Hampton's library. Susan and her staff and volunteers did an amazing job bringing everything together.

The Pontine players were brilliant in 'duet' form - reciting 'Apartment to Sublet'. 'Custard' and 'Tin Wedding Whistle' in the most endearing ways that brought out nuances of the poem that go unnoticed when reading it in a solo voice.

The play was received warmly by the audience. Many stayed long afterwards to chat with Marguerite and Greg and listen to their stories of producing the play and staging it all over NH. 'Home is Heaven' has been performed previously at Pontine Theatre - here is a detailed review by WireNH.

The evening was also the start of an effort to gather more Ogden Nash anecdotes from his North Hampton friends to include in a touring exhibit of his works. If you have any Nash stories to share, please send them to Susan Grant or post them here and I'll pass them on.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Ogden Nash Day in Little Boar's Head, NH

On August 20th the town of North Hampton, NH is celebrating the anniversary of the poet's birth with two special events.

The Pontine Theatre group will stage a production of "Home is Heaven: POEMS BY OGDEN NASH" at 7 p.m. at North Hampton School, 201 Atlantic Ave. Pontine's co-artistic directors Marguerite Mathews and Greg Gathers will bring Nash's poems on family and summer to life with toy theater figures and puppets.

Prior to the production here will be a tour of Ogden Nash's former seaside home from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., compliments of Bob and Sherry Lauter, the current owners. For more information contact the North Hampton Public Library at 603-964-6326.

Nash was born on August 19, 1902.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Visualizing Ogden Nash's Poems

From Flickr :

A Texas student's reflection...

Hanging at The Bronx Zoo...

Reminder on the workbench...

Xbox commentary...

Poor Mrs. Twist...

A refreshing interpretation of Nash's most quoted poem ...

Shameless commerce in the Netherlands...

A maxim to wear...

They are writing about Llama's in public restrooms in Toronto...

A wedding program reminding the groom to employ silence at strategic intervals...

A Norway artist knew what the caption should be the instant she saw the photo....

All photos © by their respective owners. Click photo for more information.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Ogden Nash's Poem to Dorothy Parker

Ogden Nash's "Candy is..."and Dorothy Parker's "Men seldom make passes..." are occasionaly attributed to the other in error. Perhaps the confusion is understandable given the many similarities between the Gotham based purveyors of witty and provocative verse.

As luminaries in the Manhattan literary world their lives would often intertwine. In one unlikely episode the junior Nash served as the editor of the eminent Ms. Parker's work at the New Yorker for a brief spell in 1931. Although Nash's most urgent mission was often trying to find Parker in New York's speakeasies and entering an 11th hour plea to complete her column before Friday's deadline.

Parker was known to have a rapier wit which she often used to shred sub-par works. However, Parker may have espied something of herself in Nash's early work. In what would be the first of many written and personal exchanges between the two, Parker sent him a rhyme of praise in the fall of 1930. Lamenting that while she used to 'dabble for a living in rhyme', she had since become derailed as a poet by "Racquet club members, players on two pianos, raconteurs and homosectuals." She wished Nash success in life and literature and wanted him to know that she was a "respectful admirer."

In Nash's reply you can sense the joy and awe he must have felt shortly after he opened the envelope with the Swiss postmark. While the twenty eight year old Nash's star was beginning to rise, as his poems were being published with increasing frequency, receiving a personal note from a member of the Algonquin roundtable was a whole other level of recognition.

Nash responded with an enthusiastic poem of his own. He later shared the exchange with his editor. The correspondence, dispensed from Simon & Shuster's 'Inner Sanctum' appeared in newspaper ads promoting the debut of Hard Lines, Nash's first collection. While Parker's letter to Nash has been published several times, I did not know of Nash's reply until Kevin Fitzgerald, President of the Dorothy Parker Society recently shared it with me.

Nash's reply to Parker brims with joy:

"I was more intoxicated by your enconium
Than at a beautiful chord played by a maestro on
an expensive harmonium
I would far rather have your laud
Than half interest in the business of Henry Faud"

Nash's speaking voice reflected his upbringing in 'society'. is phonetic treatment of lord and Ford as 'laud' and 'Faud', was probably close to Nash's actual pronunciation.

'Big Blonde' refers to Parker's highly acclaimed short story of 1929.

The Dorothy Parker Society stages Parkerfest every spring: A spirited celebration of the author's life and works.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Ogden Nash's Advice to the Graduating Class

In the midst of preparation for this weekend's ceremonies, it's a good time to revisit Ogden Nash's address to his granddaughter Nell and her classmates at the Miss Porter's School commencement in 1970.

One can imagine a great deal of anticipation and speculation among the audience as to what the notable poet would say that May afternoon in CT. Would he quote wisdom from his works? Prepare a new poem for the occasion? Or perhaps talk about how he felt after his own graduation from St. Georges?

Nash chose to share something more valuable to the young women off to college in the fall. He advocated for that they employ a sense of humor when addressing the inevitable challenges that lied ahead. He made a vigorous case for humor being "hope's companion in arms."

That Nash should find humor therapeutic and important is not surprising. Here was a man who wrote humor reflexively: As gifts to friends or simply to cheer himself up during an ordeal. As when he penned a verse to vent over his car being burglarized in Boston. Nash used light verse to stun, and suspend in a freeze frame, the abrasive elements of the world so he could lampoon and deflate them.

Here is an excerpt of Nash's graduation address, where he encourages the student's to view humor as their most valuable tool:

"It is not brash, it is not cheap, it is not heartless, Among other things I think humor is a shield, a weapon, a survival kit,

Not only has this brief span of ours been threatened by such perils not of our own making such as fire and flood, Tyrannosaurus Rex, the black death, and hurricanes named after chorus girls, but we have been most ingenious in devising means for destroying each other, a habit we haven't yet learned how to kick. So here we are, several billion of us, crowded into our global concentration camp for the duration, How are we to survive? Solemnity is not the answer, any more than witless and irresponsible frivolity is. I think our best chance lies in humor, which in this case means a wry acceptance of our predicament. We don't have to like it but we can at least recognize its ridiculous aspects, one of which is ourselves."

Not solemnity nor frivolity, but humor tempered with a wry acceptance of our predicament and a recognition that we are often a ridiculous race: A distinctive message for graduation day.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Brother, Can You Spare a Laugh?

Is the question asked on Vanity Fair's April cover about new comedians. Lets hope the new crew can stave off barrel living during this downturn.

They might take heart in knowing that Ogden Nash's rapid career ascent occurred during the Great Depression. Nash's book "Hard Lines" was embraced by a nation in search of smiles during the 30's.

Similarly, in the 1940's overseas G.I.'s were laughing in their foxholes at specially printed collections of Nash's poems. These paperbacks were published by the War Department and shipped along with their canned rations.

Perhaps the Great Recession is the right time for an Ogden Nash renaissance.

The battered housing market is not keeping a real estate developer from tearing down one of Ogden Nash's favorite hangouts. New Hampshire's Portsmouth Herald reports that Rye Harbor Realty is proposing to tear down Saunders restaurant, a frequent summer dining venue of Ogden Nash, and replace it with eight condos.

The local board of adjustment has scheduled the vote for April 8th. The restaurant is expected to remain open for one more summer even if the developer prevails.

Saunders was founded in 1920 by a local fisherman and grew from fish market to lunch counter to a popular full service restaurant.
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