What a load of nonsense!
John Mole - 23 February 2006
I have always loved or, to put it another way, had a weakness for nonsense verse. I rather agree with Dr. Seuss who once said that the reason he enjoyed writing nonsense so much was that it woke up his brain cells.
The line between nonsense verse and great poetry is sometimes a very thin or even an invisible one. Edward Lear's 'The Owl and the Pussy Cat' and 'The Jumblies', for example, seem to me to be full of a deep, yearning emotion as well as eccentric humour. Sheer ( or mere? ) wordplay can also be a delight and an end in itself: the songs of Winnie the Pooh, the picture book texts of Maurice Sendak, Dr. Seuss himself of course, and so many rhymes by Anonymous. Then for older readers there are some fine European surrealists to be found in translation. I particularly like Robert Desnos's 'Chantefables' ( pour les enfants sages ) and have attempted to rework some of them into English. You can find these in my collection 'Boo to a Goose'. Then yet again there is the zany Shel Silverstein with his deliciously cock-eyed view of life, and Jack Prelutsky and.. . BUT what did surprise me recently was to learn that Spike Milligan's 'On the Ning Nang Nong' has been voted the nation's favourite comic poem. While I enjoy a number of Spike's 'Silly Verses for Kids' I do find that this particular poem not only doesn't make me laugh but that it actually rather irritates me with its goony, insistent glee. Would someone explain to me why it is so popular? I'd also like to hear from you with your own favourite comic/nonsense poems. Please let me know what they are and, if you think they may not be very well-known, where I can find them.