Frank on Poetry and the Life of a Law Firm @elizafrank @mespadapoet @LloydEsq

Elizabeth Bales Frank writes about introducing poetry to attorneys at her law firm in her essay My Life as Poet Laureate (Of a Law Firm). She notes that convincing her colleagues of the value of poetry for the law wasn’t easy. Does poetry have other than commercial value for law or business? She writes in part,

Neither poet nor teacher, I was the blind leading the blind, or, in this case, the enamored leading the disdainful. Literature demands time. To lawyers, time is billable, not malleable. Time spent on novels, plays or poetry is time wasted. And the greatest waste is poetry.

Both lawyers and poets manipulate language, but lawyers do it to win a conviction or a favorable deal. Poets do it to evoke the ephemeral—an emotion, a moment, a mood. Poets embrace nuance. Lawyers seek to crush it.

Both lawyers and poets manipulate language, but lawyers do it to win a conviction or a favorable deal. Poets do it to evoke the ephemeral—an emotion, a moment, a mood. Poets embrace nuance. Lawyers seek to crush it.

Ultimately, what is poetry’s value to the world? It’s a question that readers, critics, and (often) poets ask and answer. Does poetry act as part of the glue that holds a society together? Frank has some thoughts on that point as well. Read her entire essay here. 

For more about the value of poetry (and how to read it), see among many other books Robert Hass’s A Little Book on Form: An Exploration Into the Formal Imagination of Poetry (2020),  Ben Lerner’s recent Hatred of Poetry (2016) and Matthew Zapruder’s Why Poetry (2017). Harold Anthony Lloyd discusses 

Note that a number of people have combined the practices of law and poetry, among them Edgar Lee Masters, Kate Sutherland, Wallace Stevens, and M. NourbeSe Philip. Martin Espada, a lawyer-poet, discusses some of them in this elegant essay for poets.org. Harold Anthony Lloyd, professor of law at Wake Forest Law School, uses a Shakespearean sonnet to explain why both lawyers and poets value “the craft of language” in this essay for the Huffington Post. James Elkins has edited a volume of poems written by lawyer-poets; Lawyer Poets and That World We Call Law is available from Pleasure Boat Studio.