Thursday, May 30, 2024

The Poetry Corner

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By Norah Christianson

I have to say, poets are a dark lot. It’s difficult to find a poem for you that isn’t deeply serious or seriously dark at its core. If a poet contrives to be clever, witty, or even humorous, he often also manages to be critical, knotty, or tragic. Poetry can be like country music—“My Woman’s Done Gone,” “My Truck is Dead,” “My Hound Dog Bit Me,” “I Never Wed”… and on. (I love country music.) 

Poets look on the world with love, but they see it clearly, too. Often the world ain’t pretty. And poets write their truth about it. The comfort that arises from reading poems comes from our personal vision being validated by them. 

In an effort to pick a poem today that won’t make you overly despondent, I’m choosing the lightheartedness of poets, Ogden Nash. Though he, too, can be critical, as you will see. 

The Terrible People

~ By Ogden Nash

People who have what they want are very fond of telling people who 
      haven’t what they want that they really don’t want it,
And I wish I could afford to gather all such people into a gloomy 
castle on the Danube and hire half a dozen capable Draculas 
          to haunt it.
I don’t mind their having a lot of money, and I don’t care how they 
          employ it,
But I do think that they damn well ought to admit they enjoy it.

But no, they insist on being stealthy
About the pleasures of being wealthy,
And the possession of a handsome annuity
Makes them think that to say how hard it is to make both ends 
          meet is their bounden duty.
You cannot conceive of an occasion
Which will find them without some suitable evasion.
Yes indeed, with arguments they are very fecund;
Their first point is that money isn’t everything, and that they have 
          no money anyhow is their second.
Some people’s money is merited,
And other people’s is inherited,
But wherever it comes from,
They talk about it as if it were something you got pink gums from.
This well may be,
But if so, why do they not relieve themselves of t he burden by trans-
          ferring it to the deserving poor or to me?
Perhaps indeed the possession of wealth is constantly distressing,
But I should be quite willing to assume every curse of wealth if I 
          could at the same time assume every blessing.
The only incurable troubles of the rich are the troubles that money 
          can’t cure,
Which is a kind of trouble that is even more troublesome if you  
          are poor.
Certainly there are lots of things in life that money won’t buy, but 
          it’s very funny –
Have you ever tried to buy them without money?

Ogden Nash was born in Rye, NY in 1902. He spent one year at Harvard, left to work briefly on Wall Street (he was terrible at it, claiming he sold exactly one bond “to my godmother”), taught school at St. George’s but left “…because I lost my entire nervous system carving lamb for a table of fourteen-year-olds.” He began writing advertising slogans in 1925 and also began writing “classical” poetry. But it was light verse at which he was brilliant and which made him famous. He was a master of satirical verse and whacky rhyming. He wrote of humanity’s vices and delusions and banalities. But though he was deep-down a critic, he was funny. He made us laugh at ourselves. Hooray for Ogden!  Ogden’s noggin is worth examinin’!

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