Epigrams on the Decay within Academia


Liberal Artifice

“Progressives,” through advanced miseducation,
Have shaken our fair land to its foundation.


Gustatory Chiasmus

Good taste is timeless, sound, and with us always;
Good times are tasteless down collegiate hallways.



The profs who plant their feet on vinyl hassocks
Are only fit for teaching ersatz classics.



What many teachers fail to recognize:
Cold silence is preferred to outright lies.



The overarching underlying purpose
Of shallow thinkers is to scratch the surface.



Though cosmic looms of kismet or of karma
Determine warp and weft of dread disease,
On earth we face the specter of Big Pharma
Where side-effects outnumber remedies.

What recourse is at hand for those who slipped
Into a coma sans a living will
Or for the bedrid casualties now stripped
Of dignity who’ve bit the bitter pill?

The herbal and holistic cures no profit
Provide for giant pharmaceutic firms,
But jars arrayed from baseboard to the soffit
On drugstore shelves exploit our fear of germs.

We’re made to pay large sums for medicine
That might not work as well as Providence,
Which makes our growing urge to jettison
Prescriptions seem like simple common sense.



Sing a song for all the mothers
Raising children sans a helpmate.
Strum a tune for loyal brothers
Grilling burgers on a tailgate.

Light a candle for the sailors
Drowned in Neptune’s briny ocean;
Likewise trim a wick for whalers
Lighting lamps through their devotion

To the vagaries of commerce.
So it goes, as we spend fortunes
Buying in on Satan’s proffers,
Counting on unequal portions

Always slanted in our favor.
Legacies have hit rock-bottom,
Nevermore a bite to savor,
Now the very dregs of Sodom.

Let us bind ourselves to causes
Reckoned proper by our sisters,
Clapping with infrequent pauses,
Never minding painful blisters.

Further, let us do our tithing
In accordance with our nature,
Not with laws from serpents writhing
In Pelosi’s legislature.



C.B. Anderson was the longtime gardener for the PBS television series, The Victory Garden.  Hundreds of his poems have appeared in scores of print and electronic journals out of North America, Great Britain, Ireland, Austria, Australia and India.  His collection, Mortal Soup and the Blue Yonder was published in 2013 by White Violet Press.

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21 Responses

  1. Joseph S. Salemi

    Kip, these are great. The “Epigrams” are perfect encapsulations of the degradation and incompetence that now dominate in our universities, particularly in literature and humanities departments.

    The trochaics of “Accolades” are delightful. If only more formalist poets knew how do something other than iambic pentameter. And your feminine rhyme endings throughout are “spot on,” as the Brits say.

    • C.B. Anderson

      Thanks, Joe. In a way, I was thinking of you when I wrote these couplets, because you represent the VERY OPPOSITE of the ethopathic characteristics depicted here.

      As for trochaic meter, there is a reason why I (and others) don’t employ it very often: it is harder to manage than iambic meter; our hearts naturally beat with a thub-DUP. I feel that trochaic poems SHOULD have feminine rhyme endings, unless they are meant to be deliberately catalectic.

  2. Peter Hartley

    …And worthy of Martial. I remember being amazed to discover that my thirty-odd-year-old university-educated niece has never heard of a mausoleum and doesn’t know what a buzzard is.

    • Joseph S. Salemi

      At my university, I once listened to some younger members of the English faculty in the elevator. They were discussing the verb “to harrow.” Not one of them knew what it meant, and more ominously, none of them had the slightest interest in looking it up. They just laughed it off as “some obsolete word.”

      These are the jackasses teaching literature to your kids.

      • C.B. Anderson

        It must have been a harrowing experience for you — and a mule-powered harrow, to boot.

    • C.B. Anderson

      I would say, Peter, that buzzards obviate, to some extent at least, the need for mausoleums. But we’ll still need ossuaries. Know the names of things; I doubt it’s possible to know too many words.

    • Peter Hartley

      CB – We DO have badgers in the UK. And they have a bad reputation as carriers of bovine tuberculosis but are a protected species, so farmers who kill them sometimes leave their bodies at the side of the road to look like road-kill or “morkin”, not “merkin” which is something very different. Those lazy prof wazzocks should be sticking their knees on their hassocks and keeping their butts in their cassocks, and leaving the dirty soles of their shoes out of it. There is nothing that looks worse than a besmirched hassock, and the fact that they don’t even genuflect shows just how bone idle and disrespectful they really are. Very fine little epigrams.

  3. Peter Hartley

    Although there are some words in this rich language of ours that we so seldom have the opportunity to put to good use that they could almost be regarded as superfluous. I’m thinking, of course, among others, of the words UCALEGON, a neighbour whose house is on fire; WERDEROBE, the faeces of a badger; and SOOTERKIN, the offspring of a Dutch woman and a hot stove.

    • C.B. Anderson

      Jesus, Peter! You’ve raised issues I’ve never dared to contemplate. I didn’t know that there were badgers in Britain; I thought that such creatures only existed in the North American Midwest. But what do I know? I’ll spare you the zoological nomenclature for now, a courtesy extended from one ape to another.

    • Monty

      Of the three words you offered above: not only could they “almost be regarded as superfluous” . . they ARE superfluous to our language; and I trust that we’ll never again encounter them.

      • Peter Hartley

        Yes I was fully aware that all three words are superfluous. I was merely using a rhetorical device that has three different words to describe it. The simplest of these three words is “understatement”. The other two words are superfluous.

  4. Monty

    Of course you’re not obliged to answer, CB (as is an authors right): but I wonder if you could guide me through the following words in order for me to fully absorb your rousing piece ‘Accolades’ . . . “trim a wick for whalers lighting lamps through their devotion to the vagaries of commerce”.

    • C.B. Anderson

      Monty, “trim a wick” is just an expression, similar to “light a candle.” Both are accolades to persons who have gone beyond our ordinary expectations. Recall the days of Moby Dick, when whalers sailed for years in search of sperm whales to collect and render the oil that lit many a New England lamp. Nowadays, killing whales for any reason is frowned upon. Back then, it was just business. If my reply has left you, in any way, unsatisfied, then please post another query.

      • Monty

        Yeah, I realised from the start that ‘trim a wick’ was an alternative way of saying ‘light a candle’ (the sentence started with “light a candle”.. then, “LIKEWISE trim a wick” . . so I sussed it on the spot) . . but I’d never heard it before; and I fell immediately in love with it. I also knew instantly, CB, that whenever I have occasion in the future to physically commit that act in company . . I shall never again simply say “let’s light a candle”. Not now I know of such a quality alternative with which to share with chums.

        Regarding the semi-sentence (from the semi-colon onwards) on which I was jammed: I should start by telling you that I’m not a very good thinker. Generally, if something doesn’t come to me fairly quickly: it’ll never come (it’s often the case that the more I try to work it out, the further away from me it gets; then I’m hopeless). Although I was in a similar state of hopelessness with the aforementioned sentence, I could somehow sense that it had a real meaning to it, which frustrated me; that’s why I was initially pestering you and Mr Stone for some aid.

        You now ask if the explanation you’ve since given has satisfied me . . well, it’s done more than that, CB: it’s left me rapturous at the (now evident) sheer cleverness of the sentence. I can see now that I never stood a chance of grasping it unaided; ‘cos I simply never knew that lamps were once lit with whale’s oil. Now I know that fact, the very three words which were confusing me – “whalers lighting lamps” – now not only make total sense; but they’re integral to what’s transpired (for me) to be a very vivid and far-reaching sentence: especially your contextual use of the word “devotion”.

        As mentioned, I suspected from the outset that it was a meaningful sentence; and so it transpired . . . merci pour votre aide.

  5. Mark Stone

    C.B., Hello. Here are four thoughts.

    1. I wonder if it is really the “purpose” of shallow thinkers to merely scratch the surface. My guess is that everyone would like to be able to be a deep thinker. It’s just that shallow thinkers are not able to do that.

    2. Although I very much like the profit/soffit end rhyme, the inversion of “no profit” and “provide” stands out. Here is an option:

    The herbal and holistic cures provide
    No profit for the pharmaceutic firms,
    But jars stacked to the soffits, side by side,
    On drugstore shelves exploit our fear of germs.

    3. Love the trochaic meter in the last poem. My favorite line, because of its abundant assonance and consonance, is: “Likewise trim a wick for whalers” Also, the words at the end of lines 1, 3, 5 & 7 resonate nicely together.

    4. “Grilling burgers on a tailgate” makes sense if the grill is resting on the tailgate of the truck. However, to me, it seems more natural to say “grilling burgers at a tailgate,” in the sense of “at a tailgate party.” I think a lot of people bring a grill and set it up next to their truck.

    • Monty

      Given that you’ve expressed a liking for the line which includes the word ‘whalers’: I wonder if you (or anyone, for that matter) could assist my absorption of the piece by telling me how you interpret that whole sentence (from ‘likewise’ to ‘commerce’). Does the word ‘whalers’ have another meaning over there (other than ‘those who go whaling’)? It sounds like a really meaningful sentence to me (especially the brilliant ‘trim a wick’, which I’d never before heard) . . but I just don’t know how to read it.

      Regarding your ‘tailgate’ query: I feel that you’ve answered your own question, Mark. You say that grilling burgers on a tailgate makes sense “if the grill is resting on the tailgate” . . so, take it as it reads: the grill is resting on the tailgate. As you rightly say, a LOT of people at such a party will set up the grill next to their truck: a LOT of people.. but not ALL people. It’s not unreasonable to assume that at any such party, there will be the odd few who’s grills don’t possess legs; so what do they do? They rest it on the tailgate (that being a favourable height from which to cook).

    • C.B. Anderson

      Mark, in order, then, I would like to address your thoughts :

      1. Sometimes purpose is a matter of individual predilection, but at other times it is a matter of more cosmic preordained order. Shallow thinkers have no special privilege.

      2. I think your quatrain is fairly brilliant, but it just happens that it’s not the one I came up with.

      3. Sound is always important, but I never expect a reader to respond so strongly to the sonic reverberations deliberately put in place.

      4. A tailgate party begins on a tailgate. There’s nothing more to be said here.


  6. Sally Cook

    Dear C.B. –
    “..The overarching, underlying purpose
    Of shallow thinkers is to scratch the surface.”

    Oh yes, the surface, now venerated in all truly polite and sophisticated circles.. Pity anyone who digs under it!

    C.B., you nailed it.
    Good work!

    There is an unholy mix of orwellian analysis and
    self-directed sentiment abroad in the land. The arts have been almost totally taken over by surface-skimmers, who now know that image is all, yet have none..

    Please keep on posting these very trenchant observations..

    • Joseph S. Salemi

      What C.B. Anderson is suggesting, I believe, is that we are flooded with shallow thinkers precisely because almost all of our educational institutions have been infiltrated and captured by left-liberal teachers who have as their basic agenda the prevention of any really deep thought or insights, especially if they go against the grain of politically correct orthodoxy.

      As an artist of long standing, you of course have seen that something similar has taken place in the world of painting.

  7. C.B. Anderson

    Monty, “trim a wick” is just an expression, similar to “light a candle.” Both are accolades to persons who have gone beyond our ordinary expectations. Recall the days of Moby Dick, when whalers sailed for years in search of sperm whales to collect and render the oil that lit many a New England lamp. Nowadays, killing whales for any reason is frowned upon. Back then, it was just business. If my reply has left you, in any way, unsatisfied, then please post another query.


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