Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Poetry and Law

I have a new theory about poetry. I think that the thought process that goes into poetry writing is similar to the thought process underlying the study and practice of law. To test this theory, I looked into the lives of major poets and came up with a decent handful of scribes who were indeed both poets and lawyers. My findings (via wikipedia and Jilly): William Cullen Bryant, Seth Abramson, Wallace Stevens, Francis Scott Key, Moliere, James Russell Lowell, Lawrence Joseph.

My interest in linking poetry and law comes from a pet peeve of mine: the tendency to view poetry writing as windy emotional venting. Instead, it's more of a mental game, one that should require both precise logical grasp of shades of meaning and syntax, and creativity and innovation in uncovering previously overlooked linkages and possibilities.

Somewhat like how I imagine a lawyer on a good case to work. Though admittedly, I know very little about law and almost nothing about lawyers. In fact, I have had only one experience interacting with a lawyer. This happened shortly after I came to New York when I went on a date with a lawyer from an investment bank. I was still shy of the city and everything in it and it was all I could do to say a word. The guy, however, talked more than I have ever heard anyone talk, and also asked more questions than I have ever heard anyone ask. This was disconcerting, especially when he continued the barrage while trying to kiss me. To be interrogated while being kissed is confounding. Back at home, it took me three days of hard thinking to figure it out. It finally dawned on me. "Oh...he's a lawyer." He was using the same techniques to get a quiet girl to kiss as he would to get an uncommunicative witness to talk.


Jilly said...

poet Lawrence Joseph is a lawyer too

Tara said...

Thanks for the info--he looks like a really interesting poet. Thanks also for being the first person to comment on my blog--I was thrilled! :)