In the last three weeks, I have been reading statements that characterize a controversial public figure. Some of these statements have made me wonder if I will ever have the chance to meet this CU professor named “Patty Limerick,” who seems to be creating quite a stir.
Thanks to the steady commitment to free expression held by the editors of The Denver Post Perspective section, I now have a chance to tell you who I actually am.
I am an individual who can find hilarity and merriment in experiences that would break the spirit of a halfway-normal person. In truth, that capacity — to see the world around me as at once very serious and very funny — arose directly from my experience as a public intellectual.
Despite every effort to speak carefully and forestall misunderstanding, the public intellectual is sure to make someone mad. When that happens, there is only one course of action: you must contact the angry person and ask for help in figuring out what went wrong and how you will avoid missteps in the future. And then you invite the now-somewhat-less-enraged person to join you in laughing about how the two of you mistook each other for antagonists.
In truth, the compatibility of humor with serious reckonings is familiar to everyone who has ever attended a memorial service. Listening to stories about a person, who is at once beloved and departed, the mourners will laugh and cry. Humor and sorrow do not conceal their compatibility at a funeral.
And this recognition leads us straight to the limericks I have written as places for humor and sorrow to cohabit.
On September 23, 2022, Glen Krutz, the newly arrived Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Colorado, Boulder, fired me from my position as faculty director of the Center of the American West, leaving that long-established campus organization in a very rattled condition.
On October 7, 2022, it finally occurred to me that the name “Krutz” absolutely begs to be rhymed. And here is the first product of this realization.
That ambitious new dean named Krutz
Has a passion for bitter disputes.
Pursuing that quest,
He picked a fight with the West
And pulled out the Center by its roots.
While many topics pled for similar treatment, a concern about the conduct of investigatory procedure pushed to the front of this well-populated queue:
The word “process” and the word “due”
Should stick together like glue.
When they part ways,
The result is a haze,
In which justice is sure to be skewed.
Next, I turned to the amusement aroused when high-minded proclamations echo through the sound system at academic ceremonies.
Immersed in a rhetorical haze,
There are “leaders” who regularly praise
Principles and daring,
Values and caring,
Leaving followers lost in a maze.
But then a twinge of sympathy forced its way into the creative process. Perhaps, if we knew more about the early years of the less inspiring wielders of authority in higher education, we would feel more sympathy for them?
If a child is petty and mean,
And governed by small-minded spleen,
When asked for advice,
Do not think twice:
This child could grow up to be Dean.
OK, readers, now you are feeling a little discomfort. Is this parading of my talents, along with my possession of an excellent surname, starting to seem unfair? Is this display of poetic virtuosity simply too one-sided?
So now for another revelation of who I really am: to the core of my soul, I believe that turnabout is the essence of fair play.
It is surely time for the tables to be turned.
Editors of the Denver Post Perspective Section, please embrace fair play and give the leaders of higher education the chance to write — and publish — limericks about me.
And, on the chance that these novice poets need advice and guidance on the artistry of limericks, they will know where to turn: the world expert on limericks is right in their neighborhood, with a little more time on her hands.
Patty Limerick is The Historian Formerly Known as the Faculty Director of the Center of the American West at the University of Colorado, Boulder. You can still write her at firstname.lastname@example.org, until the University cuts her off.
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