Strangers to Us All Lawyers and Poetry

   Lawyers and Poetry   

On first impression, it seems that lawyers and poets must exist in different universes of thought and feeling, product and practice. For many lawyers and poets there may be truth embodied in the crude impression: the law leads north and poetry south; to follow the one path is to preclude 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, 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, at times a sense of wonder, at the idea of someone who is a poet and lawyer.

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 lawyers and poets, in a similar way, 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. With our great ignorance of poetry, how can it continue to play a part in our literary lives? What makes poetry, and the poet, special, different, marginal, misunderstood, ignored?

We may find that the poet and the lawyer see 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 tastes, all the more surprising, to have such tastes acquired by a single person.

What then can be said about lawyers who become poets, poets who become lawyers? First things first. We begin by identifying this country's lawyer/poets.

  Chronological Index  

  Alphabetical Index   

  State Index  

  Civil War  

  Misc. Index  

  Contemporary Lawyer Poets [ A-L ]  

Contemporary Lawyer Poets [ M- Z ]  

  Lawyer Poets Around the World   

  Poetry Resources  

  News Archive    

Strangers to Us All: Lawyers and Poetry is based on research on lawyer poets conducted by Professor James R. Elkins, College of Law, West Virginia University. The site was first posted on Labor Day, September 2, 2001. Please contact Professor Elkins with criticisms or aberrant thoughts about this endeavor.

  James R. Elkins 2001-2016

"The principles of the poetic sentiment lie deep within the immortal nature of man, and have little necessary reference to the worldly circumstances which surround him."

Edgar A. Poe, "Griswold's American Poetry," 2 (5) The Boston Miscellany of Literature and Fashion 218 (Nov. 1, 1842)

the first new anthology of lawyer related verse in 50 years

Lawyer Poets and That World We Call Law
edited by James R. Elkins

Available from the Publisher &

Kate O'Neill review of the anthology
in Legal Communication & Rhetoric: JALWD


News & Publications of Lawyer Poets Archive

2016 (Collections of Poetry by Lawyers): Seth Abramson, Data (BlazeVOX [Books], 2016); Tim Nolan, The Field (New Rivers Press, 2016); Ann Tweedy, The Body's Alphabet (Headmistress Press, 2016); John L. Holgerson, Unnecessary Tattoo and Other Stains on a Stainless Stell Heart (Finishing Line Press, 2016); Gerry Grubbs, The Palace of Flowers (Dos Madres Press, 2016); James Clarke, The Quality of Mercy (JHC Press, 2016); Monica Youn, Blackacre (Graywolf Press, 2016); Adam J. Sedia, Inquitetude (CreateSpace, 2016); Thomas J. Erickson, The Biology of Consciousness and Other Poems (Pebblebrook Press, 2016); Simone White, Of Being Dispersed (Futurepoem Books, 2016); Jacqueline St. Joan, What Remains (Turkey Buzzard Press, 2016); Carol Jennings, Dead Spirits at the Piano (WordTech Communications, 2016); Martín Espada, Vivas to Those Who Have Failed (W.W. Norton, 2016); L. Ward Abel, A Jerusalem of Ponds (erbacce- press, 2016); William Bernhardt, The Ocean’s Edge (Red Dirt Press, 2016); Saul Touster, From My Life and Other Poems (Philodor Co., 2016); Richard Alan Bunch, Johnny Cake and Other Poems (Infinity Publ., 2016); Richard Alan Bunch, Seawind in the Plums: New and Selected Poems (Infinity Publ., 2016); Mystic Pizzazz and Tiger Lillies: Poems for the Spirit (Infinity Publ., 2016); T.S. Kerrigan, Missing the Sunset at Sounion (Xlibris, 2016); Tim Nolan, The Field (New Rivers Press, 2016)

2015 (Collections of Poetry by Lawyers): James Clarke, The Juried Heart (Pleasure Boat Studio, 2015); James Clarke, Winter With Flowers (JHC Press, 2015); David Krieger, Wake Up! (Nuclear Age Foundation Book, 2015); Barry Marks, Dividing by Zero (Negative Capability Press, 2015); David E. Cowen, The Madness of Empty Spaces (Weasel Press, 2015); Seth Abramson, Metamericana (BlazeVOX [Books], 2015); Laura Chalar, Midnight at the Law Firm (Coal City Press, 2015); David Bristol, The Hour of the Poem Poem: Poems on Writing (New Academia Publishing/ Scarith Books, 2015); Kristin Roedell, Down River (Aldrich Books, 2015); Richard Falk, Waiting for Rainbows (iUniverse, 2015); Frank Pommersheim, Local Memory and Karma (Rose Hill Books, 2015); Rebecca Foust, Paradise Drive (Press 53, 2015); Barry George, The One Who Flies Back (Kattywompus Press, 2015); J.T. Whitehead, The Table of the Elements: Poems 1992-2007 (Broadkill River Press, 2015); Dawn Coppock, As Sweet as It's Going to Get (Sapling Grove Press, 2015); Judith Behar, A Green Bough (Finishing Line Press, 2015); Roberta Beary, Deflection (Accents Publ., 2015); Tom Gannon, Food for a Journey (Antrim House, 2015); Roberta Beary, Deflection (Accents Publ., 2015); Tom Jones, Beyond Existentialism (FootHills Publ., 2015); Richard Alan Bunch, Gazing Anew: Collected Poems 2011-2015 (Infinity Publ., 2015)

Notable Publication

James Clarke's The Juried Heart was published in March, 2015 by Pleasure Boat Studio, a NY literary press. The Juried Heart is a selection of Judge Clarke's poignant poems about his life and his work as a judge. Judge Clarke, a graduate of McGill University and Osgoode Hall, now retired, practiced law in Cobourg, Ontario and assumed his duties on the bench in 1983. Widely published in Canada, The Juried Heart is Clarke's first book published in the United States. Collections of Judge Clarke's more recent work, Reluctant Witness, and Fugitive Light appear in 2015 issues of the Legal Studies Forum.


Juried Heart is, to my knowledge, the first major collection
of poetry by a judge about his life on the bench (and off).

"Highly recommended."
James R. Elkins

Contact Professor Elkins.

[Website image (books-lamp-quill): Thomas W. Herringshaw (ed.), Poets and Poetry of Kansas (Chicago: American Publishers' Association, 1894)]