A bunch of nonsense

I grew up in a house filled with books. To be honest, they were mainly from the library (we visited every week), but the books we did own included a set of encyclopedias, a few well-worn paperback novels, and quite a few children’s books, received as gifts from various relatives or as prizes at the Sunday School Anniversary.

Our library included two volumes of poetry, one by A.A. Milne, creator of Winnie the Pooh, and the other a collection of poems by Ogden Nash (1902 – 1971).

Nash wrote over 500 poems in his lifetime, for both adults and children, and early in his career he was employed as a copywriter for an advertising company. His poems are funny and clever; he had just the right type of temperament for an advertising man.

Here are a few of my favourites:

The Fly

The Lord in His wisdom made the fly, 
And then forgot to tell us why.

The Camel

The Camel has a single hump, 
The dromedary two, 
Or is it just the other way, 
I’m never sure – are you?


Celery, raw
Develops the jaw,
But celery, stewed,
Is more quietly chewed.

Nash was just 29 when he published his first collection of humorous poems to critical acclaim. The following year he left his job to concentrate fully on writing.

He also wrote the scripts for three MGM films and the lyrics for three Broadway musicals including the hugely successful A Touch of Venus, starring Ava Gardner and Robert Walker about a mannequin who comes to life.

Watching this old clip from reminded me of the 1987 film Mannequin which I have always loved.

Despite being a poet at heart, he still needed to make a living. He sums it up beautifully in this short poem.

Introspective Reflection

I would live all my life in nonchalance and insouciance
Were it not for making a living, which is rather a nouciance.

This is an example of a nonsense poem. Nonsense poems often change the spelling of words to make things rhyme or make them more amusing. They are best read out loud and children usually love them. Other writers of nonsense poems include Lewis Carroll (The Jabberwocky) and Edward Lear (The Owl and the Pussycat).

Do you have any favourite poems from your childhood?

9 thoughts on “A bunch of nonsense

  1. This is a delightful post, Margaret. I wish we’d had Ogden Nash, wow! I’ve hardly read any of his poems, but I would have loved them. My mother used to read Robert Louis Stevenson’s poems to me, they had a rhythmic, sing-song quality to them that somehow made it easy for me to memorize….so I remember those vividly, but now you’ve made me want to go out and get Nash. I also didn’t know there is such a thing as a nonsense poem. Nash makes me want to try and write some – I’ll be doing that could put the writer in a better mood if she/he happens to need a life. Thanks for this cool post!

    1. I started thinking about nonsense poems because at the start of spring people always quote the poem about spring being sprung and I mistakenly thought that Ogden Nash had penned this ditty. That made me think about all the silly poems my mum and grandmother used to recite when we were kids.
      When I was working, I had a colleague called Alexander and I always used to call him Alexander Beetle after the poem by AAMilne. A lot of people in my office had never heard this poem (or the song version by Melanie Safka), so I used to delight in reciting it loudly to all and sundry.
      I’m glad your mother read you poems, I don’t think I ever did that when my children were little.

  2. My grandparents and uncles had an affinity for limericks! They would burst into a sort of musical rhythmn of nonsense lyrics and would have me in stitches! Some of them were considered a bit rude by my Mum (not by today’s standards, believe me). So there was an element of naughtiness involved if you repeated them. Cheeky child.

  3. My Dad used to read us Spike Milligan poems when we were kids, one of my favourites was On the Ning Nong Nang, complete nonsense!

    1. This was my fave. Bought my son a book of Spike Milligan poems. His yr 2 teacher commandeered it for his classroom for a whole year. If the kids were good they got an hour of poems on Friday as a treat. We need more of this :)-

      1. I started writing this post back in September when people kept quoting The Spring is Sprung. It made me think about nonsense poems and how much I love them.

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