5 QUESTIONS: Colleen Anderson on the Art of the Op-Ed Limerick

Screen capture from animation of “Blowing Whistles.”

“5 Questions” is an occasional WestVirginiaVille feature.

Colleen Anderson is one of the Renaissance Notables of the West Virginia cultural scene: an accomplished writer, performer, graphic designer, and artist, who makes some mean origami. She’s also a leading light in the Op-Ed Limerick Movement of the Trump Era. (We’re actually unsure whether anyone else writes Molotov limericks in response to daily depredations by Trump and his minions, toadies and coddlers.) Her limericks have an admiring following on her Facebook feed. I liked them so much, I offered to animate some. We had ‘5 Questions’ about her craft.

PS: Colleen doesn’t title her limericks, but I did for the animations to better sequence them. | PSS: All the soundtrack music is by a guy whose music I have liked for a lifetime, LucasTheFlow. | PSSS: The Obama recollection limerick features ‘Trumpty Dumpty’ artwork by Charleston WV artist Chet Lowther. | Douglas John Imbrogno


WVVILLE: When was the exact moment a light bulb switched on above your head: ‘Hmmmm. I, Colleen Anderson, am going to write Op-Ed limericks in order to comment on Donald Trump and Trumpublicanism?
COLLEEN ANDERSON: I wrote my first Trump limerick on January 27, 2017, about a week after he took office. Actually, I wrote two that day. I think that’s about the time it began to sink in that the next few years would be a terrible time for the country. (I had no idea how terrible.)

~ All Limericks by Colleen Anderson

When he’s hyped up, a tweet might relieve him,
But sensible thought seems to leave him,
And the tripe he sends out
Makes it clear, without doubt,
It is folly to trust or believe him.

“Folly,” “To Be Kind,” “Mightily Glad,” and “Worthless Borders.”


WVVILLE: Have you had any limerick or slash-and-burn doggerel mentors in honing your craft?
CA: No, not really. I have always enjoyed the form. Probably I heard some Edward Lear limericks as a child. I love brevity and rhyme in poetry—I’m a fan of subtle formal poetry, like Richard Wilbur’s. And I love the rolling rhythm of a limerick. Is it anapestic? I get those metrical terms mixed up. You know, ‘dah-dah-DAH-dah-dah-DAH, dah-dah-DAH.’ And I like the possibility of a “punch line” or surprise at the end of a limerick. For such a short form, it combines a lot of fun stuff. 

Trump thinks he’s a great mastermind,
As he blunders, buffoonish and blind,
And there’s just no concealing
His absence of feeling:
He doesn’t know how to be kind.


WVVILLE: Are the limericks a form of burning off aggravation so you don’t send threatening letters to the White House and have the Secret Service at your door—or what do you hope they offer readers?
CA: I don’t send threatening letters! But, yes, limericks are a way to concentrate my outrage into a tidy little package that I can leave on Facebook and forget for a while. I don’t want to spend hours every day being miserably angry—”sustained outrage” is a nice slogan, but it’s not healthy for me. I know that well enough to consciously choose some other uses for most of my time—origami, which is a meditation for me; walking outdoors; reading better poetry than mine. 

What I do not anticipate is publishing a book, although people keep suggesting it.

I hope readers of my limericks are entertained, sometimes moved in some way. Sometimes provoked to write their own. Early on, Rafael Barker created lovely memes from some of them. And you have made some beautiful videos with them. Needless to say, I love these, and I think other people do, too.

What I do not anticipate is publishing a book, although people keep suggesting it. Yes, I think it would be great to have a collection of them, accompanied by a short paragraph of historical context for each, and maybe illustrations or photographs. But someone else is going to have to put that together if they want to see it happen. I have too many other projects that mean more to me.

Responsible? That’s not his game.
He’ll blunder, but won’t take the blame.
He thinks he’s a hero.
His proof of that? Zero.
His trustworthiness? Just the same.

“Toady,” “Move Quickly,” “Fauci,” and “Canary Meet Coal Mine.”


WVVILLE: How many op-ed limericks have you published so far and how much longer can you go?
CA: I haven’t totaled them up. I have them all in a Word document, but I get confused every time I try to count them. Hundreds. I can’t predict how long I’ll keep writing them. Nearly every day, I think, “I don’t really feel like writing a limerick today.” But then our Dear Leader makes some ridiculous remark or does something incredibly cruel, and my rhyming instinct kicks in. Limericks … pandemic … One day they will both just … disappear. 

As Trump barks out insults and orders
To diligent, truthful reporters,
A pandemic brings news
Even he can’t refuse:
Big walls are quite worthless as borders.


WVVILLE: What advice would you give other people thinking about using their creativity for political commentary?
CA: Don’t wait. You will never have a better opportunity than right now.

Dear ones, we have hard times ahead,
But remember what Mother Jones said.
Her advice serves us well:
Let’s keep fighting like hell
For the living, and pray for the dead.

“Fight Like Hell,” “Sarcastic,” and “Blowing Whistles.”

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