News Release — August 15, 2002
The Ransom Center Celebrates a Good Bad Poet
The American poet Ogden Nash (1902-1971) is one of the most widely read masters of light verse. This fall, the Ransom Center pays tribute to Nash in a centennial exhibition that presents the poet's accomplishments in the tradition of the light verse form and features original manuscripts, letters and photographs from the Ogden Nash papers housed at the Ransom Center. Rare unpublished poems and drawings will be highlighted at the exhibition as well as available in a keepsake booklet.
The opening reception will be held on Thursday, September 12, from 6:00-7:30 at the Leeds Gallery. Douglas Parker, whose biography, Ogden Nash: The Man Behind the Verse, to be published next year by Southern Illinois University Press will speak, and exhibition curator George Crandell will lead a gallery tour. Crandell, Professor and Head of the English Department at Auburn University, specializes in twentieth-century American literature, descriptive bibliography, and textual criticism. His books include Ogden Nash: A Descriptive Bibliography (1991) Tennessee Williams: A Descriptive Bibliography (1995), and The Critical Response to Tennessee Williams (1996). Ransom Center Research Librarian Tara Wenger assisted Crandell in curating the exhibition.
Nash first achieved fame as a comic poet in the pages of The New Yorker during the late 1920s and early 1930s with an eccentric brand of poetry distinctive because of its "badness." Recognizing the folly of trying to write serious poetry, Nash decided, "that it would be better to be 'a good bad poet than a bad good poet.'" Capitalizing on the success of his contributions to The New Yorker, Nash published his first collection of poems, Hard Lines, in 1931. Subsequently, he became a regular contributor to The New Yorker, the Saturday Evening Post, Holiday, and other periodicals while succeeding as a free-lance writer. His most significant collections include I'm A Stranger Here Myself (1938), Verses from 1929 On (1957), and I Wouldn't Have Missed It (1975). During a career that spanned four decades, Nash also wrote numerous books for children, most notably Custard the Dragon (1959) and The Adventures of Isabel (1963). He also pursued a passion for the musical theater, writing lyrics for the successful Broadway musical, One Touch of Venus (1943), and for Saint-Säens's The Carnival of the Animals. From the late 1940s until his death in 1971, Nash was a frequent guest on radio and television programs, and often lectured to appreciative audiences all across the country.