Saturday, February 14, 2009

Timeless Threads of Ogden Nash

Here's an eclectic smörgåsbord of recent Nash news and blog bytes:

"I claim there ain't
Another Saint
As great as Valentine."

The City of Akron used this Nash quip to advise that Judge Stubbs-Williams would be open Saturday, Feb 14 for those wishing to tie the knot. The litigation weary Judge noted that
"I don’t mind opening our court on a weekend. It’s so rare we get to deal with anything joyous"

The world's most famous matchmaker received somewhat harsher treatment in 270 when he was beheaded by the Romans.

Another Nashian Valentine was noted by
Debby from the Germany-Holland border:

"To My Valentine"

More than a catbird hates a cat,
Or a criminal hates a clue,
Or the Axis hates the United States
That's how much I love you...
Read the rest here

Moving on to the puzzlesphere,
two readers of Rex Parker's NY Times Crossword blog credit their long term memory of Ogden Nash's AXOLOTL for solving the January 30th puzzle. Many cite Nash's works as the best remembered from the classroom. "I've never met an Axolotl, but Harvard has one in a bottle " certainly has a mnemonic quality.

Similarly, AnnaMaria De Mars of Santa Monica remembered that she once
created a poetry writing computer program based on Nash's The Hippopotamus. Dr. De Mars has "achieved success in business, sports and academics without ever actually having grown up". Or as Nash observed:

Film student Nimisha Saikia of Ahmedabad shared Nash's 'A Word on Wind' as one of her favorites...

Cows go around saying Moo,
But the wind goes around saying Woo,
Ghosts say Woooo to you too,
And sometimes they say boo to you too,
But everybody has heard the wind but a few people have heard the ghost,
So it is commonly supposed the wind says wooo the most....
Read the rest here

The Sante Fe New Mexican and other pubs noted the recently departed John Updike's connections to Nash as New Yorker contributor and, in his early years, light versifier.

The Ukiah Daily Journal featured a column on
popular culture being interwoven into California Supreme Court opinions. It noted that a Nash poem was part of the court's rationale in a 1980 opinion. It doesn't say which poem. Ogden Nash lags Bob Dylan who has been cited for support in 22 bench rulings.

Nash's lyrics are frequently brought to life in Saint-Saens' 'Carnival of the Animals'. But it's a rare to find a detailed review like San Bernardino Symphony Delights Children at Family Concert :

Especially delightful, Edoardo Ponti's sassy reading of the Ogden Nash verses in Carnival gave spark to the work, and pianists Nancy Bricard and Juliane Song expressed everything from a lion's roar to a hopping kangaroo to a sliding fish... Saint-Saens' "Le Carnaval Des Animaux" (The Carnival of the Animals), although eschewed by the composer during his lifetime, further illuminated serious music and the colors and characteristics of the instruments... In the most familiar of the pieces, "The Swan" in Carnival, principal cello Ana Maria Maldonado delivered a particularly sensuous, poignant picture of a lovely swan gliding silently over the smooth water."

Sounds like it was a beautiful rendering of the verses. 'Carnival' was also performed recently at the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in New York.

"Hope is dope." is the lead quote in suburban Chicago's Daily Herald article on the U.S. fiscal crisis. The writer cites this ten letter Nash poem as one of the English language's shortest. Could there be a published poem less than ten letters long?

In his influential blog JP Rangaswami of the UK included Blogden among good examples of putting your passion on the web.

All of the above threads woven into contemporary life are a testament to the poet's enduring relevance.

Ogden Nash poems copyright © by Linell Nash Smith and Isabel Nash Eberstadt

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Interview with Ogden Nash Biographer

A transcript of the 2005 PBS interview with Douglas Parker about Ogden Nash can be found here. Parker's discussion with ThinkTank's Ben Wattenberg provides a nice oral history of the stories behind many of Nash's most famous poems. These include his first published poem, about the self-righteous and hypocritical Senator Smoot.


Senator Smoot (Republican, Ut.)

Is planning a ban on smut.

Oh rooti-ti-toot for Smoot of Ut.

And his reverend occiput.

Smite, Smoot, smite for Ut.,

Grit your molars and do your dut.,

Gird up your l__ns,

Smite h_p and th_gh,

We'll all be Kansas

By and by...

...Senator Smoot is an institute

Not to be bribed with pelf;

He guards our homes from erotic tomes

By reading them all himself.

Read the full poem here

Ogden Nash poems copyright © by Linell Nash Smith and Isabel Nash Eberstadt
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