The Oxford Book of American Light Verse

The Oxford Book of American Light Verse

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Ogden Nash, Dorothy Parker, and Cole Porter join Emerson, Dickinson, Frost, Eliot and other famous and little-known poets, versifiers, and lyricists in a collection of satires, parodies, limericks, clerihews, popular lyrics, protests, and other light exercises in verseshow more

Product details

  • Hardback | 590 pages
  • 137.16 x 213.36 x 38.1mm | 771.1g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0195025091
  • 9780195025095

Review Text

From "Yankee Doodle" to the pretentious whimsy of Kathleen Norris (b. 1947), Harmon has chosen over 500 samples of U.S. "light verse" - and an odd array it is. The obvious contributors are here in force: Nash, Longfellow, Whittier, O.W. Holmes, Eugene Field, Dorothy Parker, David McCord, Phyllis McGinley. And most of the inescapable chestnuts: "A Visit from St. Nicholas," "Casey at the Bat," and "The Purple Cow" (with a sequel - "Ah, yes! I wrote the 'Purple Cow'/I'm Sorry, now, I Wrote it!/But I can Tell you, Anyhow/I'll kill you if you Quote it!"). But Harmon adopts a flexible, post-Auden definition of "light verse," so he's able to include ponderous stanzas by John Q. Adams as well as other name-dropping scraps from such as J.P. Sousa, Hemingway, Edmund Wilson (Russian-English limericks), and Nabokov (elegant, black-comic wordplay). And he draws on substantial work of major poets - Whitman, Dickinson, Sandburg, W.C. Williams, Millay, cummings - some of which seems no less "heavy" (Harmon's word) than better poems not included. Strongest at resurrecting old charmers (H.C. Bunner), along with a good many wearisome jokers ("Orpheus C. Kerr" and his punning doggerel), Harmon is weakest in the later 20th century: academia dominates (except for a hilarious Ferlinghetti and some terse Langston Hughes); the pick of pop-song lyrics is grossly under-informed (where, for just one example, is E.Y. Harburg?); there's no reflection of ethnic textures or political concerns: and this prim sampling surely would have benefited from some young voices - like that of Ntozake Shange (For Colored Girls. . . ). Ivory-towerish, then, but a generous compilation nonetheless - which will undoubtedly be one jumping-off point for future considerations of American light verse as a genre. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

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