Poet Biographies

Ogden Nash: The Master of Playful Poetry

Ogden Nash, a renowned American poet, was celebrated for his light verse and unique comedic touch. Nash’s playful rhymes, often challenging conventional poetic forms, offered humor and insight to readers.

Ogden Nash Portrait

Ogden Nash was a much-loved American poet who is remembered for his lighthearted and humorous poems for children and adults. His pun-like style brought joy to readers across the United States and around the world. He died in 1971 after writing for more than forty years and completing 20 volumes of poetry. Nash’s poetic voice was one of wit and rhyming, turning conventional themes on its axis.

Interestingly, Nash had a heritage that impacted the United States. Nashville, Tennessee, was actually named after his ancestor, General Francis Nash.

Life Facts

  • Ogden Nash was born on August 19, 1902, in Rye, New York.
  • As a child, his family moved homes frequently.
  • He published his first collection of poetry in 1931.
  • Nash worked for The New Yorker.
  • Ogden Nash died at Johns Hopkins Hospital in May of 1971.

Interesting Facts

  • Ogden Nash wrote 20 volumes of poetry over his lifetime.
  • For a time, he worked unsuccessfully selling bonds.
  • Nash worked on a Broadway musical.
  • He worked for the same streetcar ad company that had employed F. Scott Fitzgerald.
  • Ogden Nash had Crohn’s disease.

Famous Poems

  • ‘The People Upstairs’ is an entertaining poem; Nash’s speaker addresses the outrageous amount of noise that his upstairs neighbors are making. He doesn’t know exactly what it is they’re doing, but he can guess. He takes the reader through several hyperbolic suggestions. The speaker considers that they might be bowling ballet dancing, or even jumping on pogo sticks.
  • A Caution to Everybody is a slightly darker, more thoughtful poem than the others included on this shortlist. In it, Nash addresses humankind’s future and our possible downfall as we “forget” how to “walk.” He expresses a concern that humankind is going to forget the most important parts of what it means to be human and have a successful society as we push forward trying to “fly.”
  • The Cow might not be Nash’s best poem, but it is one of his most commonly quoted. It is also a perfect example of his pun-like style of writing and his fantastic use of rhymes. In the two-line poem, he describes the cow directly and simply while also reminding the reader what the cow is best known for— milk.
  • The Fly is another of Nash’s best animal-related poems. This one is quite short as well and also uses rhyme to drive home the speaker’s clever point. In this case, he questions God’s reason for creating the “fly” as it has no discernible purpose on earth—at least when it’s annoying the speaker.
  • ‘A Word to Husbands is addressed to the male partner in a heterosexual relationship. The speaker tells this metaphorical man that he has to do certain things if he wants his relationship to succeed. These include being humble when he’s right and being truthful at all times. These are necessary parts of a strong marriage.

Early Life

Frederick Ogden Nash was born on August 19, 1902, in Rye, New York. His parents, Mattie and Edmund Strudwick Nash, worked in the import-export business. The family was required, due to the confines of that business, to move frequently when Nash was young. He would live in many cities on the East Coast, including Savannah, Georgia. When speaking about his childhood, Nash said that from a young age, as young as six years old, he had a passion for rhyming. He learned to love language and even made his own words when no English words would work.

Nash attended St. George’s School in Newport Country, Rhode Island, and then went on to Harvard University. However, he dropped out after only one year. The next year of his life was spent working as a teacher at St. George’s before he moved to New York. There, he got a job selling bonds, a career that he did not excel at.

Literary Career

Later, he found work writing streetcar card ads for a company that had at one point employed F. Scott Fitzgerald. As time progressed he found a better job as an editor in the advertising department at Doubleday, the page publishing house. It was during this period that he began submitting short rhymes to The New Yorker. These were received joyfully by the staff. Nash even spent three months working on the editorial staff of the paper. His pun-like rhymes became incredibly popular, mostly due to his practiced skill of creating clever and original rhymes. Some of the best examples of this appear in his animal poems, such as The Octopus,’ The Cow, and ‘The Fly’. Nash’s first book of comedic poetry, Hard Lines, was published in 1931, which was the same year that he married Frances Rider Leonard. They tied the knot on June 6, 1931. After 1932, Nash made the commitment to work on his poetry full-time, which was an impactful decision.

In the late 1930s and early 40s, Nash would publish a number of iconic works such as I’m a Stranger Here Myself (1938), The Face is Familiar (1940), Good Intentions (1942), and Many Long Years Ago (1945).

This collection thrust him into the national spotlight. A few years later, he moved to Baltimore, Maryland, which became his principal home, where he spent the rest of his life. His poems started to become more commonly anthologized over the years and included in important books such as A New Anthology of Modern Poetry in 1946.

Later Career and Death

Over his forty-year career, he completed 20 volumes of poetry some of which included The Bad Parents’ Garden of Verse and Everyone but Three and Me. His work would also be elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1950. He also toured the United States lecturing. In 1952, he wrote the lyrics for Two’s Company and worked on the Broadway musical One Touch of Venus. 

Ogden Nash died at Johns Hopkins Hospital in May of 1971 from complications from Crohn’s disease. He is buried in East Side Cemetery in North Hampton, New Hampshire.

Influence from other Poets

Ogden Nash’s poetry was notably influenced by writers such as John KeatsLord Byron, and likely other writers of humorous nonsense verses such as Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear.


How many books did Ogden Nash write?

Ogden Nash wrote 20 books of poetry, including Hard Lines (1931), The Bad Parents’ Garden of Verse (1936), I’m a Stranger Here Myself (1938), and Everyone but Thee and Me (1962). He also wrote the lyrics for the musicals One Touch of Venus (1943) and Two’s Company (1952), as well as several children’s books.

When did Ogden Nash start writing?

Ogden Nash’s poetry journey started when he was a child. He wrote his first poem, ‘Invocation,’ in 1930, and it was published in The New Yorker magazine.

When did Ogden Nash die?

Ogden Nash died on May 19, 1971, at the age of 68. He was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in the 1940s, eventually leading to his death.

Where was Ogden Nash from?

Ogden Nash was born in Rye, New York, on August 19, 1902. He would live in a number of locations, including Baltimore.

What is Ogden Nash’s most famous poem?

Ogden Nash’s most famous poem is probably ‘The Song of the Open Road,’ which was published in his 1931 collection Hard Lines. The poem is a humorous take on the American dream of freedom and adventure.

William Green Poetry Expert
Will created Poem Analysis back in 2015 and has a team of the best poetry experts helping him analyze poems from the past and present. Although he has a background in Automotive Engineering, having worked for McLaren testing supercars, Will has a keen eye for poetry and literature.
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