Friday, April 18, 2008

Plaques and Gold Medals

Once when he was awarded a gold medal for his poetry, Robert Graves later took it to a jeweler and discovered that it was not gold at all.

He got an essay out of the experience, at least, turning the experience into a metaphor for true poetic gold as opposed to gilded base metal or pinchbeck. Graves had very definite ideas about what constituted "true poetry."

Wednesday I was on the list of honorees for a campus-wide awards luncheon, but as I was coming down with the godawful head cold that led me to cancel my classes for the rest of the week, I skipped it.

I went instead to my office, took care of various matters--at the end of the academic year, we are always hit with requests for recommendation letters for various jobs, internships, and graduate schools--and eventually went home. I did not want to sit sniffling and sneezing at a big table, almost unable to talk.

As I left my office to go home and to bed, I encountered a student who was looking for me. She had brought my plaques--one of them 5x7 inches, the other one 8x10 inches. Each bore a pseudo-metallic plastic face plate with pseudo-gilt highlights bearing such sentiments as "In honor of your retirement." The smaller was for my 15 years of service, apparently. (Technically, I did not retire--I quit.)

So somebody wasted the taxpayers' money down at the trophy shop in the strip mall. Am I supposed to hang them on the wall of my study at home and contemplate them?

By contrast, when we had the departmental joint retirement (that word again) party for two senior colleagues and myself last Saturday night, my colleagues gave me gift cards for Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Bam! No more wish list. Thanks, everyone!

But, geez ... plaques.

So I thought I could pry off the face plates and use them as display bases for some other project.

On closer examination, however, I saw that they were merely made from some kind of pressboard with a plastic wood-grain veneer. So they cannot be sanded or refinished.

Maybe there is a metaphor there too, but I am going to leave it alone for now.



Anonymous Natalie said...

I've never met you or attended your teaching, but I have very much been thankful for your Pagan Studies material - articles etc, but also the Pagan Studies list, which was invaluable for my thesis. Just thought I'd say that, since your tone in this seems a little fraught or unhappy. You've made a difference, and I have confidence that people in your dept would think so, also, even if they have to express it in a tacky manner.


10:03 PM  
OpenID dmiley said...

May there be reports of dragons in the next town over!


6:08 AM  
Anonymous Chas S. Clifton said...


I enjoyed my departmental colleagues and had great support for my Pagan studies work from my department chairman. But some people higher up in the university seem to think that professors are motivated by cheap trophies. It's odd.


Never fear, I can find dragons right outside the house. My dragon-fighting appointment book is full for the next six months!

11:08 AM  

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