Poems on Academia by Felicia Nimue Ackerman

The following is a guest post*  of poems, mostly about academia, by Felicia Nimue Ackerman, professor of philosophy at Brown University. 

The poems were originally published in other venues (credits at the bottom of the post).


[Alma Thomas, “Stars and Their Display”]

Big Family

When my dean said, “We’re all a big family,”
I figured that it would ring true,
If my relatives paid me a salary
And gave me a yearly review.


Professor Superstar

He values his peers, but he snubs lesser scholars
As if they could scarcely be seen.
He thinks that this shows that his standards are lofty.
It really just shows that he’s mean.


How Doth Professor Superstar

How doth Professor Superstar
Pursue his shining quest.
His glory awes us from afar.
He dwells atop the crest.

How cheerfully he seems to grin,
How neatly wields his clout,
To welcome all his cronies in
And keep outsiders out.

Bound for Tenure

He hardly could be a more suitable fit
If we had constructed him out of a kit.
He knows whom to take note of and whom to ignore.
He’s been on this trajectory since he was four.

A Little List

Apt to harm us, prone to grump,
That’s my view of Donald Trump.
Has he virtues that I’ve missed?
Here’s a comprehensive list:


“A Big Family”: a slightly different version first appeared in The Providence Journal
“Professor Superstar”: first appeared in The Providence Journal
“How Doth Professor Superstar”: first appeared in The Providence Journal
“Bound for Tenure”: first appeared as a letter to the editor on The Chronicle Of Higher Education website
“A Little List”: first appeared in Options
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Interwebz Bard
Interwebz Bard
6 years ago

I love these. I’m wondering though if maybe the cadence of the third line in ‘Bound for Tenure’ would be smoother if the preposition ‘of’ was moved behind the pronoun:

He knows of whom to take note and whom to ignore.

It’s a bit stuffier, but it’s also smoother to my ear and creates a nice parallelism between ‘whom to take note’ and ‘whom to ignore.’ Though now that I think about it, this could be tightened still:

“He knows whom to note and whom to ignore
He’s been on this trajectory since he was four”

Reply to  Interwebz Bard
6 years ago

It’s anapestic tetrameter, with four sets of three syllables, the first two unstressed and the third stressed:

He knows WHOM to take NOTE of and WHOM to igNORE.

Interwebz Bard
Interwebz Bard
Reply to  God
6 years ago

Huh. So now take me from:

1. It’s anapestric teterameter
3. Therefore it sounds better.

Reply to  Interwebz Bard
5 years ago

It sounds better because all the other lines also consist of four sets of three syllables each

Alan White
6 years ago

Wonderful stuff Prof. Ackerman!

6 years ago

I usually hate poems. I love these.

6 years ago

Very nice!!! Especially since they poke “types” who need poking and laud the deserving tenure track person.