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Charles Osgood: CBS News' poet-in-residence

Charles Osgood: CBS News' poet-in-residence
Charles Osgood: CBS News' poet-in-residence 05:16

Straight from the news, his subjects he'd choose: Martha Teichner shares an ode to CBS News' resident wit and poet laureate, Charles Osgood, who died January 23, 2024 at age 91. (Portions of this story were originally broadcast September 25, 2016.)

From down the hall, I decided to pay Charlie a friendly call.

"First of all, I don't think anything that I do is poetry," he said. "I do rhymes." 

There are certain parts of London,
if you're ever there at night
where the streets all seem to glow,
with a peculiar sort of light,

A throwback to another time,
imagination quickens,
and suddenly you're thinking of
A. Conan Doyle, or Dickens.

Rhymes like these he was famous for. When you heard iambic pentameter, you know what was in store.

When it's time for Halloween-ing,
there's one thing you should know:
You should stay away from NutTree,
that is if you are a crow.

For they go to endless trouble there
to get crows off their backs.
And to make crows feel unwelcome,
and to give crows heart attacks.

He said, "We actually had a death threat in the newsroom. Somebody called up and said, 'Tell Osgood that if he does any more of those stupid poems, I'm gonna kill him!'"

From a colleague, assent for this murderous intent: "'If somebody did kill you because of one of those poems,' he said, 'it would be justifiable homicide!' So, I always feel as if it's dangerous to do poetry."

Dangerous in more ways than one. For example, this limerick that's racy fun:

There once was a pretty young lass
Who hailed from the Bay State of Mass
She stepped into the bay
on a fine summer day,
and the water right up to her ... knees.

"So, it's funny, but it's not what you would expect," he said, "and you laugh because you expected something else. It doesn't rhyme now, but it will the tide comes in!"

Charlie's audience could bet money on his poems being funny.

For example, the time he wrote about a lawsuit between the makers of Yuck and the makers of Slime:

Playing with something as wretched as Slime,
little kids have just a wonderful time. 
It wiggles and stretches, it's clammy and green.
It's as drippy as anything you've ever seen.

Some noise about toys, with a great punchline, I'll say:

Don't let anyone tell you that Slime does not pay.

Ever heard of a "POSSLQ"?  It's an acronym now obsolete, but amusing to repeat – a Person of Opposite Sex Sharing Living Quarters, from those Census Bureau people sorters:

There's nothing that I wouldn't do
if you would be my POSSLQ.
You live with me, and I with you,
and you will be my POSSLQ.
I'll be your friend and so much more.
That's what a POSSLQ is for.

If his rhymes seemed goofy, it could be because his inspiration was Dr. Seuss-y. "Nothing could be more enjoyable than reading his stuff," he said.

It's even true, he narrated "Horton Hears a Who!"

"It's like an earworm, one of those things, you hear a song and then you can't get it out of your head," he said.

Charlie's poems were like that, too. Why? Well, here's a clue: As a member of the Academy of American Poets, he proudly proffered his "poetic license."

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"Anybody can do it if they wanted to," he said.

But they don't, and probably won't.

Who else with such zeal would rhyme about great-grandma Lucille?

Eighty-nine years of age is Lucille,
but she says you are only as old as you feel.
Want to see what Lucille is now able to DO? 
These are one-inch pine boards, not just one board but two!

Here's to Charlie, our resident wit, TV's poet laureate.

A few years before his departure from "Sunday Morning," Charles Osgood anchored an extended broadcast on a very serious topic: an up-close look at death and dying. To no one's surprise, Charlie came up with the perfect poem for that somber occasion – so perfect, we think it's worthy of another listen:

Man is mortal, this is true.
And that applies to women, too.

To each of us, to those we love,
and to our dearest friends,
at some point human life begins
and at some point it ends.

We don't know when. Life is dispensed
in differing amounts.
But it is not how LONG we lived --
it's HOW we've lived that counts.

Death, like life, is natural,
and not to be afraid of.
If you love life, guard well your time --
for time's the stuff life's made of.

Story produced by Mary Lou Teel. Editor: George Pozderec. 

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