A VINYL DASH OF OGDEN NASH

by Tony Maygarden


The Oxford Companion to English Verse describes Ogden Nash as a "...writer of sophisticated light verse, renowned for his puns, epigrams, elaborate rhymes, elaborate lack of rhymes, wildly asymmetrical lines, and other verbal fancies." The equally stuffy Benet's Readers Encyclopedia has this take on Nash:"...known for sophisticated whimsy and satire, marked by his adept use of the pun and distorted rhyme, and the inimitable cleverness of his free verse style." Lloyd Frankenberg, editor of Pleasure Dome, "An audible anthology of modern poetry" in which Nash reads five poems, has this to say: "...his technique is the despair of other poets, allowing him to choose any subject that strikes his fancy, develop it at whatever length suits him, and yet keep his audience on the edge of their seats. This is due largely to his rhyme bombs. He lights a fuse on the end of a long line and walks off. You can see it coming, but you can't guess what's going to rhyme with 'tarantulas' until it explodes in your face."

This article takes a look at some of the original LP releases of Ogden Nash reading his poetry.

Pleasure Dome LP cover

Nash reads "Allow Me Madam, But It Won't Help," "The Hunter," and three more poems on the Pleasure Dome anthology. The other poets on this set are: T.S. Eliot, Marianne Moore, E.E. Cummings, William Carlos Williams, W.H. Auden, Dylan Thomas & Elizabeth Bishop. Pretty heavy company for a writer of "light verse!"

Ogden Nash Reads Ogden Nash LP cover

Ogden Nash Reads Ogden Nash was one of spoken word label Caedmon's earliest (1953), and most successful, releases. Nash reads "Portrait Of The Artist As A Prematurely Old Man," "Bankers Are Just Like Anybody Else, Except Richer," and 26 other poems. The cover drawing is by legendary celebrity artist Al Hirschfeld.

Nash reads his poetry in a soft Boston accent, with an even tempo and virtually no theatrics. It would be very easy to over accentuate or telegraph the "bombs" but he just smoothly lets them out.

It's tempting to say Nash's poetry is out of date, belonging to another time, a different sensibility. One of Nash's favorite subjects was women, and while his observations might have been funny 40 years ago, today they would definitely raise the ire of the more correct thinking among us. To some, his menagerie of animal poems, collected on Parents Keep Out, stand up best. These poems show his mastery of puns, wordplay and bizarre rhymes.

Nash worked for the New Yorker (where his poems first appeared) during the '30s. He wrote a number of screenplays, and wrote the lyrics for the musical comedy One Touch of Venus.

Ogden Nash died in 1971.

 

Christmas With Ogden Nash LP cover

Side 1 of Christmas With Ogden Nash features "The Christmas That Almost Wasn't." Side 2 has "The Boy Who Laughed at Santa Claus" and twelve other poems. From the liner notes: "Christmas With Ogden Nash is Caedmon's answer to the spate of pink-spun-cotton-candy presents, bathetic baubles and glum glitter grimly given and gotten each Yuletide."

Ogden Nash's Parents Keep Out LP cover

Parents Keep Out contains 33 of Nash's delightful animal poems. From his liner notes: "Since parents can't keep out of anything, I resignedly address these words to them...I do not regard it as a children's record, however; I simply hope that is a record which anyone born less than fourteen or fifteen years ago may enjoy."

  Nash also recorded the LP Reflections on a Wicked World for Caedmon.