CERF’S UP

In his comment to 20/20 BEHINDSIGHT (my May 20 post which contained a look back at TWENTY QUESTIONS), long-time blog buddy Don Frankel mentioned WHAT’S MY LINE? (another old TV game show). It so happens that one of the regulars on that show, humor writer and publisher (co-founder of RANDOM HOUSE) Bennett Cerf had chosen the 25th of May (1898) to be born; thus, today I honor his birthday by posting a selection of favorite Cerf puns and quotes (and high time I returned the favor, considering that lo, some twenty-plus years ago, RANDOM HOUSE published several of my poems in THE RANDOM HOUSE TREASURY OF LIGHT VERSE).

But first, let’s take a look back at one of the WHAT’S MY LINE? programs from the same year as the TWENTY QUESTIONS clip shown in my previous post:

There is little question, I think you’ll agree, that WHAT’S MY LINE? was a step up in class compared to TWENTY QUESTIONS…..so it’s time to hit the Cerf (as beach bums refer to the swells) and ride the wave….to wit:

Gross ignorance is 144 times worse than ordinary ignorance.

The confused young man couldn’t decide whether to marry Kathryn or Edith. Try as he might, he just could not make up his mind. Unwilling to give up either, he strung them along far too long. This indecision continued until both women tired of the situation and left him for good. Moral of the story: You can’t have your Kate and Edith too.

Then there was the young female comic who was promised good roles in a hit TV show. All she had to do was divide her favors between the star and the producer. But it was just a sham; she never got any air time at all. You might even say she was….shared skit less.

There once was a student named Bessor
Whose knowledge grew lesser and lesser.
It at last grew so small
He knew nothing at all
And today he’s a college professor.

The Detroit String Quartet played Brahms last night. Brahms lost.

I shouldn’t be surprised  — it was four against one.

And on that note, I bid thee a fond fare well.

 

 

 

A TOWERING FIGURE IN POETRY

April is NATIONAL POETRY MONTH (as decreed by the Academy of American Poets in 1996). Can there be any doubt that a poet of my stature* would be expected to contribute a poem to the celebration?

*about 5′ 7″

As it happens, I had a poem in my April 20 post, but that doesn’t count….unless I say it does, which I don’t, because I’ve composed a new poem for the occasion (or any occasion, for that matter). The point is that this occasion happens to be at hand and is sufficiently worthy of a work of such distingué distinktion:

ONCE A POET

Once I wrote poems;
Writing poems was fun.
Once I wrote poems;
Now I write none.

Once I wrote poems;
Poems were my life.
Once I wrote poems;
Then I met my wife.

I’m just joking, of course;
I still write, as you see —
For my wife loves my poems,
And I still loves she*.

*That end word was going to be me, but that might be the end of me, so I reconsidered.

Thank you very much, ladies and sentimentalmen. I’m glad you appreciate the heartfelt passion and savoir fairy that went into said poem. Your defecating applause on this historic day warms my cockles to the core. This calls for a curtain call. But I don’t have another new poem handy, so how about two oldies that survived previous publication:

RHYME GONE TO HELL

I don’t comprehend
why poems that rhyme
must, most of the time,
just rhyme at line’s end.
Who so decreed it to, as though it needed
to? And would it spell

nonsense if most rhymes
commence where lines start?
Dare we call it art?
Where I’m at, at times,
is: does it matter where rhyme is, if indeed
it’s where mine is? Hell!!!

TRYING TIMES

Forgive me, please, my verse you’ve read —
Much better works are in my head….
–  But they’ll remain there
–  Until the brain there
Learns how to extract gold from lead.

But enough about me. Let us close on a serious quote from ex-Chancellor of the aforementioned Academy of American Poets, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet/novelist, Robert Penn Warren, who was fittingly born (April, 1905) in what would become National Poetry Month:
Historical sense and poetic sense should not, in the end, be contradictory, for if poetry is the little myth we make, history is the big myth we live, and in our living, constantly remake.

 

 

NOVEMBER 20 POEMS ARE CHILD’S PLAY

Because I have long taken a fancy to light verse, I wrote a number of nursery rhyme-like poems in my early poetry writing days because such poems are in the light verse vein, though seemingly just for children….but look at Mother Goose: if a bit of wit (in the telling) warrants a closer gander, the simplicity may not lay an egg in the eyes of grown-ups.

November 20 being UNIVERSAL CHILDREN’S DAY and WORLD CHILDREN’S DAY, I thought I would bring back a selection of those poems — say 20% of 20 — for a second childhood look. Two have been published in children’s magazines, two have not. You might even say that two of the four are for the birds. Well, as Humpty Dumpty may have shrugged after his fall, “Wall,  you can’t win ’em all.”

A GOOD QUESTION

Free as a bird —
That’s what I’d like to be.
But, if I were a bird —
Who would be me?

THE ONE WHO WON

The tortoise and the hare
Ran a race from here to there.
The winner, of the pair,
Was the tortoise, by a hair.

OF ALL PLACES!

Birds build nests
Where they will —
Gutter, building ledge,
Window sill.

One I saw
Amazed me —
It was nestled
In a tree!

(N)ICE TRY!

There was once a brave lad from Nebraska
Who went off on a trip to Alaska.
To climb up steep slopes, he bid —
But they were so slick, he slid
Almost all the way back to Nebraska!

Is word play child’s play or hard work, you ask? As both a light verse and jazz lover, I can tell you it helped to have….