Saturday, February 09, 2008

Letter from a Legacy

My grandmother would have been 94 this month. This week, cleaning my office to make room for the FIOS tech, I came across a note she wrote to my wife and me and toward the end of the time she was able to take care of herself. She was in the process of bequeathing her apartment one box of trinkets and saltshakers at a time. The note was tucked into an Ogden Nash book she was sending to us because "David's a poet". I hadn't opened the book since she first sent it. That would have been about 10 years ago.

Ron Silliman was writing recently about Ogden Nash as someone who was popular during his own day, but whose work was destined not to last (he was placing Billy Collins and Ted Kooser in this category). Nash certainly didn't drive changes in the collective conscience (nor does Collins, nor Kooser), but I don't agree that the work hasn't lasted - I think there are dozens of Nash's short works that continue to be quoted and retold ("Candy is dandy", anyone?). I do think that as a collection, Nash's legacy isn't well-known, but whenever I've come across his poems, I've found something interesting, clever and still familiar. The works have separated from his name, perhaps. And it's not the kind of work that one turns to for reference when crafting presidential speeches or lectures on the history of modern art. It's not "Nash's legacy", maybe not even a noticeable legacy, but it's a present one.

And then there's my grandmother's note tucked into that Nash book.

Happy Birthday, Nana.

1 comment:

Diane Lockward said...

What a lovely post! Such a sweet note from your grandmother. And of course, she was right. I agree with you about Nash--not a position of high esteem as a poet but he is certainly remembered and valued for his gift for verbal gymnastics. I think he's a constant delight.