An Evening of Nonsence, Jabberwockies, Jumblies and the Ning Nang Nong

by Stephen Martin

 For the ‘Off the Shelf’ literary festival An Evening of Nonsense: Jabberwockies, Jumblies, and the Ning Nang Nang was held at the Dada Bar in the Sheffield city centre on 21st October. This turned out to be a very enjoyable evening of nonsense, absurd, and joyous poetry hosted by Matt Black, the ‘Derbyshire Poet Laureate. (Right)

 It began with announcing the results of the ‘Humpty Dumpty’s Nonsense Poetry Competition’ (referred to in my Western Park article, Bandersnatch 155). The winners were Peter Flint with his amusing variation on the children's favourite Inchy Winchy Spider in third place, Kathryn Clomp’s Never Date Demented Danes in second, and in first Rachel Rowland’s The Jungle Sale; they each read out their entry and all received prizes.
The next part was to welcome any members of the audience to come out to the front to read their favourite poem or read one of their own. I came out first, and introduced myself as  a member of the Lewis Carroll Society, and mentioned the 140th anniversary of the birth of Charles Dodgson. I read his earliest printed poem My Fairy written when he was 13 in 1845, his two humourous limericks There was a young man of Oporta and His sister named Lucy O’Finner, and lesser known verse from Sylvie and Bruno which included ‘He thought he saw… A Banker’s Clerk, a Buffalo, a Kangaroo, and a Coach-and-Four. Gerald Unwin read his own The Loony Tune Cartoon, Sue Martin read short pieces by Spike Milligan, Christopher Isherwood, and Lewis Carroll’s The Walrus and the Carpenter, Philip Haworth read Lear’s The Pomel who had no toes, and Hugh Waterhouse read his own My present from Aunt Smith.

Matt stated that he intended it to be a ‘whistle stop tour of nonsense’. This year being the 200th anniversary of Edward Lear’s birth he began with five of his limericks and followed by one of his outrageous recipes. Then he read from Parriots Book of Nonsense which were mostly tongue twisters. Then the American Ogden Nash’s short pieces included were The Fly, The Cow, The Eel, Reflections on a Baby, and the Panther. He read two short pieces by Ivor Cutler, and Norman Hunter’s word definitions. He concluded with Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky; be said that the German translation is a real treat.      
     He proceeded to get the audience split into two halves to recite Spike Milligan’s On the Ning Nang Nong, and encouraged them to do the Nings and  Nongs loudly and in a funny voice, this was followed by Lear’s The Quangle-Wangles’ Hat, and finally The Owl and the Pussycat; all these three poems were printed on a sheet of paper.
     Matt was forced by audience demand to read poems from his own book The Nonsense Olympics which was written a memorial to his mum and dedicated as a tribute to Edward Lear. 

He finished the evening with: 

Mister Lear was often ill

But his nonsense was like a good pill,

It made him feel better,
Though he died,

as most of us will.

STEPHEN MARTIN