Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Poetry again.

Because it's another shit day and I don't feel like Googling all the pictures I'd need for an art history rant. (Portland Vase, coming soon to a bitchfest near you.)

Ogden Nash is one of my favorite poets ever, for several reasons. In part, just because he was brilliant. I doubt he's the first guy to alter words on purpose to make them rhyme, but he did it with great dexterity and effect. I also love Nash because when I was in seventh grade, we were forced to do a "Poetry Unit" by a bitch teacher (who I later helped force to resign, but that's another blog post) whose idea of "Poetry Unit" was heaping a huge assignment on a bunch of twelve year olds and dumping them in the library for a month so she wouldn't have to teach.

We had to find thirty poems by 'real poets' and illustrate them.

You can all imagine what I thought of this assignment, and ultimately, after a significant amount of research (impressive amounts, really, considering I was twelve), wound up using Ogden Nash and Shel Silverstein poems for all thirty. (It was seventh grade; I didn't know about Allen Ginsberg yet. Or Sappho. Or, well, you get the idea. I'd have used them if I'd known about them.) I illustrated them with hand-drawn cartoons.

I'd done the work, and she couldn't flunk me, but she wanted to and was pissed. That summarizes my entire relationship with this specific English teacher. And I spent probably double - even triple - the time and energy on assignments, finding a way to make them unflunkable yet annoying, than just doing the damn assignment would have required.

Which is probably the story of my entire academic career, but let's have some poems.

These aren't entirely the ones I used in seventh grade; honestly, I don't remember most of those. These are ones I found today and liked; some are chosen for relevance either to me personally or current events, some chosen just because they made me smile. All by Ogden Nash. (More of his work can be found here.)

A Drink With Something In It

There is something about a Martini,
A tingle remarkably pleasant;
A yellow, a mellow Martini;
I wish I had one at present.
There is something about a Martini,
Ere the dining and dancing begin,
And to tell you the truth,
It is not the vermouth--
I think that perhaps it's the gin.

No Doctor's Today, Thank You

They tell me that euphoria is the feeling of feeling wonderful,
well, today I feel euphorian,
Today I have the agility of a Greek god and the appetitite of a
Yes, today I may even go forth without my galoshes,
Today I am a swashbuckler, would anybody like me to buckle
any swashes?
This is my euphorian day,
I will ring welkins and before anybody answers I will run away.
I will tame me a caribou
And bedeck it with marabou.
I will pen me my memoirs.
Ah youth, youth! What euphorian days them was!
I wasn't much of a hand for the boudoirs,
I was generally to be found where the food was.
Does anybody want any flotsam?
I've gotsam.
Does anybody want any jetsam?
I can getsam.
I can play chopsticks on the Wurlitzer,
I can speak Portuguese like a Berlitzer.
I can don or doff my shoes without tying or untying the laces because
I am wearing moccasins,
And I practically know the difference between serums and antitoccasins.
Kind people, don't think me purse-proud, don't set me down as
I'm just a little euphorious.

Song of the Open Road

I think that I shall never see
A billboard lovely as a tree
Indeed, unless the billboards fall
I'll never see a tree at all.

What Almost Every Woman Knows Sooner Or Later

Husbands are things that wives have to get used to putting up with.
And with whom they breakfast with and sup with.
They interfere with the discipline of nurseries,
And forget anniversaries,
And when they have been particularly remiss
They think they can cure everything with a great big kiss,
And when you tell them about something awful they have done they just
look unbearably patient and smile a superior smile,
And think, Oh she'll get over it after a while.
And they always drink cocktails faster than they can assimilate them,
And if you look in their direction they act as if they were martyrs and
you were trying to sacrifice, or immolate them,
And when it's a question of walking five miles to play golf they are very
energetic but if it's doing anything useful around the house they are
very lethargic,
And then they tell you that women are unreasonable and don't know
anything about logic,
And they never want to get up or go to bed at the same time as you do,
And when you perform some simple common or garden rite like putting
cold cream on your face or applying a touch of lipstick they seem to
think that you are up to some kind of black magic like a priestess of Voodoo.
And they are brave and calm and cool and collected about the ailments
of the person they have promised to honor and cherish,
But the minute they get a sniffle or a stomachache of their own, why
you'd think they were about to perish,
And when you are alone with them they ignore all the minor courtesies
and as for airs and graces, they uttlerly lack them,
But when there are a lot of people around they hand you so many chairs
and ashtrays and sandwiches and butter you with such bowings and
scrapings that you want to smack them.
Husbands are indeed an irritating form of life,
And yet through some quirk of Providence most of them are really very
deeply ensconced in the affection of their wife.

And maybe some Shel Silverstein to round things out. This is one of his more famous poems, and a favorite of mine. More found here.

Where the Sidewalk Ends

There is a place where the sidewalk ends
And before the street begins,
And there the grass grows soft and white,
And there the sun burns crimson bright,
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind.

Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
And the dark street winds and bends.
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends.

Yes we'll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And we'll go where the chalk-white arrows go,
For the children, they mark, and the children, they know
The place where the sidewalk ends.


Amy Lane said...

Thank you-- that was LOVELY! I'm actually doing poetry with my 10th graders as soon as we're done with testing. My MO is a little different.

A. Discuss a concept of good poetry--rhyming, alliteration, diction, word choice, image, whatever...

B. Read a poem that demonstrates that concept. Discuss. Answer the questions.

C. Write a poem or an example of the concept on your own. Illustrate your own poem--underline and explain how you used the concept.

D. Gather all written poems at the end of the unit into student's own poetry book. Decorate. Make lovely.

Whattya think? Would it have passed the Julie-test for Dumbass-free-assignment? :-)

walterknitty said...

Thank you. Those poems are lovely and I agree with Ogden about martinis. It's the gin. I needed that today.

Barbara said...

Thank you! What a lovely way to spend an afternoon at work. Ogden Nash, huh? I'll have to get me some. I'm supposed to introduce a poet to my fellow Poetry Camp-ers next month. I think ol' Ogden will fill the bill nicely. Thanks, Julie.

amy said...

Oh I love that billboard poem. And I miss gin.

Amy, you didn't ask me at all so I hope I'm not being TOO presumptuous, but I'd jumble up your order a bit. Read first. Read a lot first. And then see if the kids can figure out what makes the poem seem "good" to them.

Donna Lee said...

I love them! Good choices. I would enjoyed having a student like you when I was teaching reading or science. I liked being challenged and I'd bet you were a challenging student (and I mean that in the best sense of the word, I am the mother of a former challenging student). Wait until the Goober starts school.

Mandy said...

Love the poetry! My favorite was always "The Tale of Custard The Dragon", and my son now shares my joy in poetry because that is exactly the sort of poetry we read. (Lately, when he misbehaves, we quote poetry to him: "Speak roughly to your little boy/ and beat him when he sneezes./ He only does it to annoy/ because he knows it teases!" His response is usually "No beating the boy!")

Recently he brought home his choices from the Scholastic book fair at school, and one of them was Shel Silverstein's "Don't Bump the Glump". I was so proud of him!

Roxie said...

Thank you. Just think - Ogden Nash lived in such a leterate era that he could make a living writing poetry!

Alwen said...

It is so blinkin' weird, how our lives echo each other.

I love reading Ogden Nash: he is one of the poets who literally (no, the real literal meaning of literally) makes me laugh. Out loud.

(How knitter-y - when I saw today's verification was helys, I read it as "He LYS".)

ang said...

Wonderful choices. Even though I enjoyed the Nash poems, reading Shel's was my fav. His writings are an inspiration for young n old to get interested in poetry. As you know the sidewalk poem is my grounding one n kicked me back into creating n displaying my own muse. Keep inspiring us to explore the riches under our noses.

ellen in indy said...

in 5th grade, my son (dyslexic, hearing-impaired, adhd) and his classmates had to memorize and recite a poem every week for 6 weeks, each of them longer than the previous one.

this violated his individual education plan, and he was afraid the other kids would laugh at him. but since he didn't want to be more obviously "different" than he already was, i told him i'd help him pick poems that would make the other kids laugh WITH him -- and if they made the teacher mad, too bad, because he would have followed the assignment rules to the letter.

yup, every week he memorized and recited an ogden nash opus, starting with "the panther," chosen both for being exactly the required minimum length and the fact that the district high school teams are the panthers.

the panther is much like a leopard,
excepting it hasn't been peppered.
should you behold a panther crouch,
prepare to say ouch.
better yet, if called by a panther,
don't anther.

his english grade that period was a personal best.
by ogden nash we were greatly blest.
my son's achievement was meritorious
and my reaction was euphorious.
but entertain no smidgin of doubt:
i still wanted to punch that teacher out!