PoetryDeathMatch: TS Eliot vs. Ogden Nash

I always thought calling a reading a “slam” was dumb, so here goes.

The scene: ancient Rome. The Coliseum. Our Judge, the fearsome Caligula.

Eliot charges into the arena, slamming his spear against his scutum.

“I’m getting old… I’m getting old…
I will wear the bottom of my pants rolled up.

Should I part my hair behind? Dare I eat a peach?
I’ll wear white flannel pants and walk on the beach.
I heard the sirens sing, each to each.

I don’t think they will sing for me.

I saw them ride out to sea on the waves
Combing white hair with blown back waves
When the wind blows white and black water.

We lingered in the rooms of the sea
By daughters of the sea crowned with red and brown seaweed
Until human voices wake us up and we drown.

J. Alfred Prufrock’s Love Song

Magical. I’m getting old too – how did he know, many thousands of years ago? There are no mermaids in my future…

Nash is down, bloody. Is this the end? No, he jumps, and jab, jab, jabs!

“Candy is dandy but alcohol is faster! How God chose the Jews! The cow is of the bovine ilk, one end moo, the other milk! Bovine ilk, hahaha.

That works! Eliot sneers at what, to him, must appear like a dog. Involuntarily, he burst out laughing. The crowd screams. Our Caesar is happy, one point goes to Nash.

But it’s not over, it’s never over with Eliot’s work.

“And I have already known the weapons, I have known them all…

Arms that are bracelets and white and bare

(But by lamplight, shot with light brown hair!)

Is it the perfume of a dress

Does that piss me off so much?

Arms stretched out along a table or wrapped around a shawl.

And should I then assume?

And how do I start?

Must I say, I went at dusk through narrow streets

And watched the smoke rising from the pipes

Solitary men in shirt sleeves, leaning out of windows? …

I should have been a pair of ragged claws

Scuttling the bottoms of silent seas.

And we should all do the same, especially me since I’m a notorious crab. But doesn’t that stir the spirit? Once again, Nash is lying on the bloodthirsty sand of the arena. He gathers his powers and returns with:

“There is something in a Martini,
A remarkably pleasant tingle;
A yellow and fluffy Martini;
I would like to have one now.
There’s something about a Martini,
Before dinner and dancing begin,
And to tell you the truth,
It’s not the vermouth…
I think it might be the gin.

Speaking of stirring the spirit… ha ha, I need a drink. Water!? I never touch it, fish fuck in it. Where do you think they fucked? I said a drink, not something to wash off.

Nash continues his rally with:

“A mighty creature is the germ,
Although smaller than the pachyderm.
His usual home
Is deep within the human race.
His childish pride often pleases him
By giving people strange diseases.
Do you feel, my poppet, crippled?
You probably have a germ.

Pure genius. And I’m not the only one to think so, Nash got his second Nobel for that. So objectively Eliot is by far the best poet and the love song is a terrific piece of work. But, but… Nash makes me laugh, he’s so wonderfully dumb, the master of short work, and he’s got the bovine kind.

So, dear readers, who gives a thumbs up and bites the dust?


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