Ogden Nash admired the acerbic couplets of Dorothy Parker, including her famous remark that “Men seldom make passes/ At girls who wear glasses.” His early contributions to The New Yorker were “Random Reflections” in verse, including the oft-quoted lines on “Ice-Breaking”: “Candy/ Is dandy/ But liquor/ Is quicker.” His sentences could be gnomic, like this one or its successor, “Pot/ Is not.” More often, they would tumble headlong in search of a rhyme, often violating standard syntax and spelling to get the rhyme. He claimed to have learned his technique from reading bad poetry; in particular he mentioned Julia A. Moore (1847-1920), known as the Sweet Singer of Michigan after the title poem of her most enduring book. Mark Twain claimed that Moore had “the touch that makes an intentionally humorous episode pathetic and an intentionally pathetic one funny.” Nash’s humor was intentional, unlike Moore’s; he claimed to have “intentionally maltreated and man-handled every known rule of grammar, spelling, and prosody,” but his rhythms and rhymes were just as bad.
“Spring Comes to Murray Hill”
Nash’s first published poem, in 1929, shows his technique fully formed. The poem consists of fourteen lines, in seven rhymed couplets, and each of the rhymes is a stretch. In the fourth line, Nash turns the noun “gargle” into “goggerel” to rhyme with “doggerel,” which seems an apt characterization...
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