We've been shining a spotlight all month long on the Poetry of the Bench and Bar with an exhibit featuring poetic judicial opinions and poems written by and about attorneys. Other legal poetry has been highlighted elsewhere including the Gallagher Law Library Judicial Humor page and, very recently, in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. In a case involving a transgender teen in Gloucester County, Virginia, Judge Andre Davis borrowed the words of Palestinian-American writer and poet Naomi Shihab Nye to comment on the teen's bravery in asserting his rights.
Some say that poetry and the law are not compatible, that law is prosaic and measured, and that the business of law should deal in pragmatism, not poesy. Others disagree, arguing that poetry is sometimes appropriate if not necessary, as it can convey the sentiment of a decision better than the calculus of reasoned judgment. Historically (and poetically), law and verse have shared origins, as expressed in verse by one JW London over a century ago. In closing, here's London's 1894 poem fromThe Law Times:
In days of old did law and rhyme,
A common pathway follow,
For Themis in the mythic time,
Was sister of Apollo.