Most people know Arthur T. (not Ogden) Nash for his punchy, get-in-and-get-out poetry, notably the breakfast poem and the duck poems:
A Breakfast Poem
Face FactsNobdy cares if you see a duck where there isn’t one.
Ducks march around the periphery of consciousness
Where they know I cannot see them.
I don’t know what they have in mind.
Most people do not know, however, that A.T. Nash also wrote poems to illustrate obscure literary terms.
In this poem, he illustrates the term ‘onomatopoeia,’ which refers to words that sound like whatever they are describing:
“Speeshat! Speeshat!” The snow-shoed crust
Speaks Russian to the smasher of its shine.
This poem was actually used in the classroom, but we won’t say where, to protect the reputation of the educator in question.
Nash also wrote a poem to illustrate the use of the predicate nominative, a vestige of the classical era. How many of you, dear readers, actually say, “It is I”? You know it’s correct, but you don’t want to sound like a pedant, so you say, “It’s me.”
In an interview with Ed Amethyst in for a book called The Power of Poetry, Nash explained that he wrote this poem after reading the alumni notes from a school he attended.
One fellow alumnus was an airline pilot and was pictured with his strikingly beautiful wife, Lanique Luxton, a flight attendant. This alumnus said he and Lanique used to wave at the school when they passed over it.
Another alumnus was one who had tried for nearly six weeks to interest Nash in selling Amway products, Nash said in the interview, and this alumnus was now retired in Colorado and enjoyed deep-powder skiing with his wife, whose name happens to be Silence.
So after all that, here’s the poem:
Why Is It Not I?
Why is it not I?
Married to Lanique Luxton,
Soaring over Dexter,
Waving to the chumps below.
Why is it not I?
Shushing through deep powder, and
At day’s end,
Retiring to the warm embrace of Silence.