Joan Aiken’s Uses for Verses… feat. The New Yorker ( aka. Owen Ketherry!)

JA Argosy jingle

Practical poetry was always an Aiken staple – charms and rhymes, jingles and odes flew from her pen, as here when she was office dogsbody for Argosy magazine and used her skills (under the nom de plume John Silver!) with cartoonist Graham to sell their copies…

Another recently discovered treasure was a letter of complaint to The New Yorker about a gadget purchased from their pages which promised to rid her garden of moles. Sadly the amazingly named ‘GopherIt’ failed to fulfil its promises, and after a few weeks of frustration the only possible riposte was a burst of doggerel…

JA Moles poem

The response from their perfectly prepared personnel (apparently under another nom de plume to protect the personality of the poet?) came from ‘Owen Ketherry’ who handled many of the more tricky correspondents to the journal from the 1980’s on – it is of course an anagram of The New Yorker – invented by a gal after Joan’s own heart, Lindsley Cameron who gleefully fulfilled a similar role to the one Joan held at Argosy.

JA Moles NY poem

…and here also perfectly preserved  with a rather familiar signature – and gothic reputation – can this be the real Charles Addams? is that actual 4th of July cartoon:

JA Moles NY cartoon

Which all goes to show that anyone is free to celebrate National Poetry Day  – as we are currently doing in the UK today – and also the freedom for all to practise their penchant for poetry – Long Live Poetic Licence!

Argosy webpage.png

Joan Aiken was also busy honing her story writing skills while at Argosy and thanks to Small Beer Press an entertaining collection of her strangely surreal early stories

( and a few mad verses!) can be found in this collection –

The Monkey’s Wedding & Other Stories





The listener – and the true companion


A story can be the best companion, if you are a listener.  If from childhood you had the good luck, the time, the solitude and the books to take you away, to transport you to a place more real than the one you lived in, you had a gift, a means of escape.  You also had a yearning to stay there, with that voice, that true companion who seemed to share your world, almost to be you, while the every day workaday world was the one that became unreal.

But unless you become the writer yourself,  the singer of songs, the one to take others away with you, you will always be listening for that voice.

John's Song

 For John Brown, a true companion,  learning to fly.

July 14 1949


Joan’s poem is from The Skin Spinners

Her only published collection of poetry, although she wrote them every day