BE MY GUEST

I’d rather be a great bad poet than a bad good poet. –Ogden Nash

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Today is the birthday, not of Ogden Nash, but of Edgar Guest (Aug. 20, 1881). And who, you might ask, was Mr. Guest, and why is he my special Guest for this post? (Sorry about that, but to paraphrase Will Rogers, I never met a pun I didn’t like.) Though he is all but forgotten today, in his day Guest was a poet so popular that he was known as the People’s Poet. Unfortunately for him, this lofty regard was not shared by more discriminating appraisers such as Dorothy Parker, who is reported to have declared:

I’d rather flunk my Wassermann test*
than read a poem by Edgar Guest.”

*a test for syphilis

Were his poems really that bad? Here are a few examples; you be the judge:

Home ain’t a place that gold can buy or get up in a minute;
Afore it’s home there’s got t’ be a heap o’ living in it.
–from his most famous poem, titled “Home”

When you’re up against a trouble,
Meet it squarely, face to face,
Lift your chin, and set your shoulders,
Plant your feet and take a brace.
–from “See It Through”

Now, I’m not saying I’d rather flunk a syphilis test than read a poem by Edgar Guest, but August 18 was/is BAD POETRY DAY, and one wonders why that date was chosen rather than August 20, which would have coincided perfectly with the birth date of the critics’ poetaster child for BAD POETRY DAY. Of course, it’s possible there are worse poets than Guest, so perhaps neglected candidates for the honor would have raised a stink (as opposed to raising a stinker, like the parents of a certain GOP candidate for President).

But I digress (the devil made me do it). Back on message, your humble host is more than capable of vying for the honor; as proof, he submits the following for your disapproval:

RAINED ALL NIGHT THE DAY I LEFT

It was a dark and stormy night
On the day I left to stay.
The sun was shining brightly
On yon shadows afar away.

I be starting on a journey
Just as soon as I know where.
I’ve packed a lot of nothing
To unpack when I get there.

They say the spirit’s willing,
But the flesh is weak as sin;
The former is my future —
The latter is where I’ve been.

So come, sweet spirit, raise me
From the heap o’ living dead.
I surrender — set me free from
My behind to look ahead.

And should I meet up with trouble,
I’ll meet it squarely and not duck;
I’ll shoulder my chin, a face lift face,
And just show all-around pluck.

And if that doesn’t take me
Beyond that unbending bend,
I’ll just declare this is where
Both journey and poem end.

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Back to Mr. Nash. I opened this opus with his “great bad poet/bad good poet” quote. There was a method to my badness: he was America’s preeminent writer of humorous light verse from 1931 until his death in 1971, a favorite of mine, and, apropos to this post’s focus on an August 18-20 time frame, he was born Aug. 19 (1902). So Happy Birthday, Ogden Nash — a wit as a light versifier and, I might add, no twit as a lyricist; witness his words to this tune composed by Kurt Weill, as sung by Eileen Wilson (lip synced by Ava Gardner) and Dick Haymes in the 1948 Hollywooden film version of the play ONE TOUCH OF VENUS:

 

 

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18 comments on “BE MY GUEST

  1. renxkyoko says:

    I like it.

    I like poems that are direct and to the point, thus , easy to understand and appreciate.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. painkills2 says:

    Poetry is in the eye of the beholder. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I also like your poem. It reminds me of the one I wrote as Artemus Bumpkin on SWI.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. scifihammy says:

    I think people can be snobs about poetry like they can about art. If you like something, does it matter if the critics think it is good or not?
    I like your poem, and you’re amusing as always. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • mistermuse says:

      Many thanks (to all four of you) for your comments. My take on the excellent points about the kinds of poetry you (or anyone, for that matter) like and poetry being “in the eye of the beholder,” is that this is TRUE OF MANY THINGS, but is internalized by too few people. Being unable to accept and appreciate that we all see things from our own vantage point (based on our upbringing, culture, religion, maturity, etc.) is, in my opinion, the primary reason why this is such a violent, “my way or the highway” world. Antagonism is no substitute for empathy and gets us nowhere but where we are. We need to get to a better place.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. linnetmoss says:

    “Set me free from my behind”? I am going to be laughing all day over this one. I also like “Hollywooden.” But Dick Haymes actually had a good voice.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. mistermuse says:

    It may be hard to believe now, but in the 1940s, Dick Haymes was Frank Sinatra’s biggest rival as the bobbysoxers’ favorite crooner. In my opinion, Haymes had a better voice than Sinatra at that time, although of course Frank went on to reach the heights, while Haymes slid into near-oblivion. His story is a sad one in many ways, and makes for interesting reading for anyone interested.

    Like

  7. Sounds like that particular dark and stormy night—of all dark and stormy nights—was a most auspicious one, and whether you have a bandage or a banjo on your knee in future, things are looking good for your liberation from your behind. And since your poem is a delight, neitherr I nor Susannah will cry for you.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. mistermuse says:

    I’ve always liked Stephen Foster’s songs such as OH! SUSANNA (from which I borrowed the title of my poem), CAMPTOWN RACES, BEAUTIFUL DREAMER and JEANIE WITH THE LIGHT BROWN HAIR. For those who aren’t familiar with OH! SUSANNA, it goes like this:

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I think your poem is too clever to qualify as bad. 🙂 Loved it!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. mistermuse says:

    Thank you (I only hope Stephen Foster isn’t turning over in his grave)!

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Don Frankel says:

    I like the way Guest sets his chin up. It would make it real easy to land a left hook or a right cross or both. He may not be the worst poet but he’s got to be pretty close.

    Is Dick Haymes trying to sound like Sinatra or is that his natural voice? I know from comments Sinatra made that he couldn’t stand the guy.

    Like

  12. mistermuse says:

    Don, that Haymes’ natural voice, but I think he shows it to better effect in the DON’T THROW COLD WATER ON THE FLAME OF LOVE clip in my previous post (SAY WHAT AGAIN?).
    Also, both his voice and his acting ability are better displayed in the 1945 version of the film STATE FAIR, with great Rodgers and Hammerstein songs like IT MIGHT AS WELL BE SPRING and IT’S A GRAND NIGHT FOR SINGING.

    Like

  13. BroadBlogs says:

    Happy birthday to Ogden Nash! I say great bad poets have a lot of soul.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. mistermuse says:

    His body of work isn’t bad either! 🙂

    Like

  15. arekhill1 says:

    Both my parents would quote Guest when Mom made one of her cherry pies. “As I wend my way to Heaven, I’ll be full of cherry pie,” they would laugh between forkfuls. Didn’t make me like them any better, but I didn’t let it destroy my taste for cherry pie.

    Like

  16. mistermuse says:

    Neither of my parents had any interest in poetry, so I wasn’t subjected to similar experiences at an early age. If there’s a creative writing gene in my family background, it must come from my mother’s Irish ancestors.

    Like

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