Authors: Ogden Nash

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

American poet

Author Works

Poetry:

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

Versus, 1949

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

Drama:

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

Screenplays:

The Firefly, 1937

The Shining Hair, 1938 (with Jane Murfin)

The Feminine Touch, 1941 (with George Oppenheimer and Edmund L. Hartmann)

Nonfiction:

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)

Edited Texts:

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

Miscellaneous:

Under Water with Ogden Nash, 1997

Biography

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.{$I[A]Nash, Ogden}{$I[geo]UNITED STATES;Nash, Ogden}{$I[tim]1902;Nash, Ogden}

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.

BibliographyAxford, L. B. An Index to the Poems of Ogden Nash. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1972. Because Nash’s individual poems were often reprinted, this bibliography is a handy way to find the first publication of any Nash poem and gauge its popularity by the number of reprintings.Collins, Billy. “Billy Collins on Ogden Nash.” In Poetry Speaks, edited by Elise Paschen and Rebekah Presson Mosby. Napersville, Ill.: Sourcebooks, 2001. Simply placing Nash in this anthology and compact disk of poets reading their poetry–with the likes of Walt Whitman and T. S. Eliot–is a statement of Nash’s poetic quality, and Collins’s assessment confirms the choice, though he faults Nash’s verse for always trying to be funny.Crandall, George W., ed. Ogden Nash: A Descriptive Bibliography. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow, 1990. Gives complete publishing details of Nash’s many books, through all their printings. Helpful for identifying occasional pieces not cited in Axford’s index.Kermode, Frank. “Maturing Late or Simply Rotting Early?” The Spectator, September 24, 1994, p. 36-37. A major British critic discusses Nash’s appeal to a new generation of readers. Kermode is able to catch the literary allusions in Nash’s collected poems and dignifies Nash with a careful reading.Nash, Ogden. Conversations. Interview by Roy Newquist. New York: Dodd, 1959. An interview with Nash written at the peak of his career, looking back on his New Yorker days. Valuable for Nash’s comments on the craft of his verse.Nash, Ogden. Loving Letters from Ogden Nash: A Family Album. Boston: Little, Brown, 1990. A selection of Nash’s personal letters, with commentary by his eldest daughter, Linnell Nash Smith.Parker, Douglas M. Ogden Nash: The Life and Work of America’s Laureate of Light Verse. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2005. A wide-ranging biography of the poet, illustrated and includes bibliography.Smith, Linell Nash, ed. Loving Letters from Ogden Nash: A Family Album. Boston: Little, Brown, 1990. Edited by Nash’s eldest daughter, this volume contains letters to family members written during the poet’s last forty years. Nash emerges as a thoroughly decent man with a distinctive take on life in the twentieth century. New words from Europe (such as maître d’ for “head waiter”) mark the opposite of progress, in Nash’s opinion. Inventions like the airplane are not improvements either; indeed, “two Wrights made a wrong.”Stuart, David. The Life and Rhymes of Ogden Nash. Lanham, Md.: Madison Books, 2000. A critical biography, illustrated with photos from the Nash papers at the University of Texas in Austin. Includes verses about Nash by contemporary reviewers imitating his style and previously unpublished verses by such friends as Dorothy Parker and E. B. White.
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