It seems, on first impression, as if lawyer and poet must surely exist in different universes of thought, feeling, and practice. And for many lawyers and poets there must be truth embodied in this crude impression–the law leads north and poetry south, to follow one is to give up the other. Yet, lawyers write poetry, and poets practice law. Should we be surprised to learn that lawyers, by training and craft, attuned to the nuance and power of language, and to the clever deployment of language as rhetoric and drama, write poetry? We may have grown accustomed, in this era of John Grisham and Scott Turow, to the idea of the lawyer as novelist, but there is still some mystery, even a sense of wonderment, at the idea of a person both poet and lawyer.Professor James R. Elkins, of West Virginia University's College of Law, writes that on his website Strangers to Us All: Lawyers and Poetry, where David Giacalone is one of many such persons discovered.
Perhaps there is no reason to think so grandly of our poets or so badly of our lawyers. The celebration of the one and the damnation of the other becomes rather confused when we find a man or woman embracing both. Perhaps we misunderstand our poets, in the way we do lawyers, because we know so little of their practices, their language, and their contribution to a literate society. Whatever the relative merits and worth of lawyers and poets, we are fast becoming a society which knows far more about its lawyers than about its poets. (We know it to be the exceptional reader and person who reads poetry, and claims to learn from it, to depend on it to hone sensibilities and chart a path in the world.) With our great ignorance (if not active disdain) of poetry, how can it continue to play a part in our literary lives? What makes poetry, and thus the poet, special, different, marginal, misunderstood, ignored?
We may find that the poet, like the lawyer, sees the world in a nuanced way that demands it be addressed with a special language, language that calls attention to itself and sets itself apart by form, rhythm, and practice. Both poetry and law are acquired taste, all the more surprising, to have such tastes acquired by a single person.
David A. Giacalone graduated from Harvard Law School in 1976 and is now retired (from a solo practice as an attorney and mediator). Giacalone spent over a decade in antitrust law at the Federal Trade Commission, before turning to family law. He currently lives in upstate New York. Giacalone's weblog -- f/k/a -- features haiku and law-related commentary (with the hope of interesting more lawyers in haiku). Giacalone's haiku can be found in his dagosan's scrapbook archives.David is a familiar old friend to many of us lawyers who blog—his alter-ego, Prof. Yabut, a bane to students unschooled in the law—yet he remains undiscovered to some who are new to the blawgosphere. No appreciation of this online world of lawyers, law students, law professors and pundits, writing about the law, their lives and loves, is complete without reading this anti-blogger's uniquely creative blawg, f/k/a___one-breath poetry & breathless punditry with haikuEsq, formerly known as ethicalEsq.
Beyond poetry and punditry, ethicalEsq Archives is probably the largest collection of client-oriented legal ethics materials on the Internet, if not the entire planet.