“I think in terms of rhyme, and have since I was six years old.” -Ogden Nash, 1958.
Words can be fun. They can make light of dark and lift our spirits.
Words can be simple.
Words can be jovial.
Words can make us smile.
Words can bring us joy of heart, along with the whole range of emotions.
Poetry is the perfect example of this power of words.
Back in sophomore honors English class, my teacher, Mrs. G, gave us the assignment of memorizing and reciting a poem in front of the class. I was not a huge fan of poetry to begin with, so this assignment was akin to flossing and brushing the dog’s teeth.
When I see poetry in books, the words get fuzzy and begin to dance around into a deadly vortex. All the same, I admit there are several poems and poets I really like.
Well, anyway, completely true to form, I forget all about the memorization assignment until late evening the night before we are to be thrown to the wolves. I searched frantically through our home bookshelf listening to the “I told you so’s” from my dear Mother, mixed in with the the laughing and the “You’re toast” coming from my brothers and sister. All in the know go to bed that night thinking old Mike Hays’goose is cooked the following day in English class.
The next morning, I sit in class waiting to be called to the gallows. It is a beautiful sunny morning just waiting to be ruined. Ruined by, of all things, poetry. When my name is called, I can feel the class and Mrs. G in rapt anticipation of a great failure as I walk to the front of the class. My classmates can smell the blood in the water.
For those who don’t know me, I am a football lineman, plain and simple. I was probably the last over the cut line to get into honors English. I was a seat filler, a butt in the seat. So, there I stand in front of the class, attempting to not make eye contact with anyone, especially with my friends. who I know are itching to expose me as a poetry fraud.
I crack my knuckles, clear my throat, and, adding a little slapstick comic relief, take my best Shakespearian stance to begin.
The Duck by Odgen Nash”
“Behold the duck.
It does not cluck.
A cluck it lacks.
It is especially fond
Of a puddle or pond
When it dines or sups,
Its bottoms ups.
I can’t remember what grade I received on the project. The audience seemed mildly entertained and Mrs. G smiled from her teacher/inquisitor seat at the back of the room. She seemed generally satisfied with the selection. I am sure it was probably a B+, as I am a B+ kind of a guy.
The only question or comment which came from the stunned audience was from Mrs. G. She asked why I picked that particular poem. Of course, I lied. I told her it was my favorite poem. But, in all reality, it was a poem which fit written on the top of toe of my Converse All-Star Chuck Taylor’s, just in case I got stage fright.
Preparation, you see, it vital to success.
Despite the rough beginnings of our relationship, The Duck, became on of my favorite poems and still the only one I have burned to memory.
From that day on, poetry did not suck quite so much to me. A win in anybody’s book.
Thank you, Mr. Ogden Nash.