Hard Lines, 1931
Free Wheeling, 1931
Happy Days, 1933
The Primrose Path, 1935
The Bad Parents’ Garden of Verse, 1936
I’m a Stranger Here Myself, 1938
The Face Is Familiar, 1940
Good Intentions, 1942, revised 1956
Many Long Years Ago, 1945
The Selected Verse of Ogden Nash, 1946
Family Reunion, 1950
The Private Dining Room, and Other New Verses, 1953
You Can’t Get There From Here, 1957
Verses from 1929 On, 1959 (pb. in England as Collected Verse from1929 On, 1961)
Everyone but Thee and Me, 1962
Marriage Lines: Notes of a Student Husband, 1964
There’s Always Another Windmill, 1968
Funniest Verses of Ogden Nash: Light Lyrics by One of America’s Favorite Humorists, 1968
Bed Riddance: A Posy for the Indisposed, 1970
The Old Dog Barks Backwards, 1972
I Wouldn’t Have Missed It: Selected Poems of Ogden Nash, 1975
A Penny Saved Is Impossible, 1981
Selected Poetry of Ogden Nash, 1995
Four Prominent So and So’s, pb. 1934
One Touch of Venus, pr. 1943 (with S. J. Perelman and Kurt Weill)
Two’s Company, pr. 1952
The Firefly, 1937
The Shining Hair, 1938 (with Jane Murfin)
The Feminine Touch, 1941 (with George Oppenheimer and Edmund L. Hartmann)
Loving Letters from Ogden Nash: A Family Album, 1990
Children’s/Young Adult Literature:
The Cricket of Carador, 1925 (with Joseph Alger)
Parents Keep Out: Elderly Poems for Youngerly Readers, 1951
The Boy Who Laughed at Santa Claus, 1957
The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t, 1957
Custard the Dragon, 1959
Beastly Poetry, 1960
A Boy Is a Boy: The Fun of Being a Boy, 1960
Custard the Dragon and the Wicked Knight, 1961
The New Nutcracker Suite, and Other Innocent Verses, 1962
Girls Are Silly, 1962
A Boy and His Room, 1963
The Adventures of Isabel, 1963
The Untold Adventures of Santa Claus, 1964
The Animal Garden, 1965
The Mysterious Ouphe, 1965
The Cruise of the Aardvark, 1967
Santa Go Home: A Case History for Parents, 1967
The Scroobius Pip, 1968 (left unfinished by Edward Lear, completed by Nash)
Nothing but Wodehouse, 1932
The Moon Is Shining Bright as Day: An Anthology of Good Humored Verse, 1953
I Couldn’t Help Laughing: Stories Selected and Introduced by Ogden Nash, 1957
Everybody Ought to Know: Verses Selected and Introduced by Ogden Nash, 1961
Under Water with Ogden Nash, 1997
Although Frederic Ogden Nash was probably the most popular, best-selling writer of verse in the twentieth century United States, he received little serious critical attention because he limited himself to light, particularly comic, verse. In the course of four decades, Nash wrote thirty volumes of verse, not counting his poetry for children, and several volumes were published after his death. He began writing poetry for The New Yorker magazine when, under editor Harold Ross, it was establishing its reputation for urbane, sophisticated literary wit–a reputation Nash helped to create.
Though born in Rye, New York, in 1902, Nash’s family moved back and forth between Rye and Savannah, Georgia, the sites of the two offices of his father’s naval stores business. Nash attended various schools and was for a while educated at home by his mother because of a deterioration in his eyesight. At age fifteen he was sent to St. George’s boarding school in Newport, Rhode Island, and matriculated to Harvard University in 1920, though he left after his freshman year.
Family connections secured for Nash entry-level jobs on Wall Street, which he hated. The only writing job he could find was producing advertising copy for streetcar signs. When he and his friend published a children’s book in 1925, the publisher, Doubleday, asked him to work in their advertising department. While at Doubleday, Nash began selling poems to Harold Ross at The New Yorker, who lured him away from Doubleday to be managing editor of the magazine–a job that lasted only three months.
Though the Great Depression caused by the stock market crash of 1929 eroded Nash’s salary, he was more fortunate than most Americans in continuing to work in his chosen field. His magazine verses were so popular that in 1931 Simon and Schuster, a major New York publisher, asked him to collect them into a book. The result, Hard Lines, sold forty thousand copies the first year, which, for a book of verse, is best-seller status. Confident in this success, Nash married Frances Rider Leonard on June 6, 1931.
In 1933 a rival weekly magazine, The Saturday Evening Post, offered Nash a contract for twenty-six poems a year, which gave him enough stability to quit his publishing jobs and write verse full time. Nash was incredibly prolific, penning and selling 157 poems in 1935 alone. That year he took his family to Hollywood, where he was contracted to write for films, an experience he detested.
In 1942, with the United States entering World War II, Nash found it harder to write light verse. Just then German composer Kurt Weill, who had come to the United States to escape the Nazis, asked Nash to collaborate with him on a Broadway musical, One Touch of Venus. The musical, with Nash’s lyrics, was a big success, and opened many doors for him.
After the war Nash became popular on the lecture circuit, reading his poems and doing a running monologue on popular topics of the day. This non-literary persona as a wit appealed to the new medium of television, and between 1953 and 1957 Nash was a regular panelist on the game show Masquerade Party. During the same period Nash discovered that the stories in verse with which he entertained his two daughters had commercial appeal, and he began a second career as a children’s author. His eldest daughter, Linnell, illustrated many of these children’s books, launching her own career as an author and illustrator.
If Nash was twentieth century America’s master of light verse, Edward Lear held that distinction for nineteenth century England. In 1968 Nash encountered Lear’s unfinished children’s poem, The Scroobius Pip, and finished it by writing only a little more than two lines. Still publishing new poetry at the same pace with which he began, Nash died of heart failure following a stomach operation on May 19, 1971. On August 19, 2002, Nash’s one-hundredth birthday, the U.S. Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp with the poet’s portrait on it.
Nash’s style, both in his children’s books and his poetry for adults, begins with a delight in language. His techniques draw attention to the rhyme but in ways that subvert conventions rather than cater to them. Most light verse in English takes advantage of “feminine” or multisyllable rhyme, and Nash’s is no exception. He often achieves such rhymes by deliberately misspelling or mispronouncing another word, such as spelling and pronouncing “diapers” as “diopes” to rhyme with “calliopes.” A second technique of Nash’s works against the tendency of light verse to seek a short line (usually tetrameter) so as to draw attention to the rhyme. He plants the rhyming word in a very short line, then draws the next one on to absurd lengths before dropping its rhyming fellow. As Nash’s more astute critics have often observed, his cleverness with rhyme expresses an equivalent intelligence of observation, making him one of the most insightful commentators on twentieth century American life.