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  

  Books By Lawyer/Poets We're Reading  

  News Archive    

Strangers to Us All: Lawyers and Poetry is based on research 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 2001-2014

"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

Now Available from the Publisher &

Pleasure Boat Studio

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


News & Publications of Lawyer Poets Archive

Rattle's Tribute to Lawyer Poets

2014 (Collections of Poetry by Lawyers)(Forthcoming): L. Ward Abel, Little Town gods (Folded Word Press, 2016)

2014 (Collections of Poetry by Lawyers): Ron Self, Rich Man's Son (Brick Road Poetry Press, 2014); Ace Boggess, The Prisoners (Brick Road Poetry Press, 2014); Sherri Felt Dratfield, Water Vigils (Finishing Line Press, 2014); Mary Anne Reese, Deep Down (Finishing Line Press, 2014); Sherri Felt Dratfield, Water Vigils (Finishing Line Press, 2014); Mary Anne Reese, Deep Down (Finishing Line Press, 2014); Richard Alan Bunch, Summer Swans: New and Selected Poems (Infinity Publishing, 2014); Elizabeth J. Coleman, Proof ( Spuyten Duyvil Publ., 2014); Paul Nemser, Tales of the Tetragrammaton (Mayapple Press, 2014)

2014 (Collections of Poetry by Lawyers)(Forthcoming): Michael Blumenthal, Be Kind (Etruscan Press); David Michael Belczyk, The Unexpected Guest (Culturatti Ink); Jeffrey Levine, Jubilo (press unknown)

2013 (Collections of Poetry by Lawyers): Elizabeth J. Coleman, Let My Ears Be Open (Finishing Line Press, 2013); Jamie Stern, Chasing Steam (Visual Artists Collective, 2013); L. Ward Abel, Cousins Over Colder Fields (Finishing Line Press); Seth Abramson, Thievery (University of Akron Press, 2013); Jay Bryan, Selected Poems (Finishing Line Press, 2013); L. Ward Abel, Roseorange (Flutter Press, 2013); Thomas J. Erickson, The Lawyer Who Died in the Courthouse Bathroom (Parallel Press, 2013); Ann Tweedy, White Out (Green Fuse Press, 2013); ; Jay Bryan, Selected Poems (Finishing Line Press, 2013); Arthur Kleiman, Grand Slam (Crisis Chronicles Press, 2013); Rose Auslander, Folding Water (Finishing Line Press, 2013); Christopher Keefer, Lessons From Exile (Finishing Line Press, 2013); Sherri Felt Dratfield, The City (Finishing Line Press, 2013); John P. McVeigh, Burning Chairs (Moon Pie Press, 2013); Paul Nemser, Taurus (New American Press, 2013); Michael Denvir, the best poetry is secret (Michael Denvir, 2013); Paul Nemser, Taurus (New American Press, 2013)

Contact Professor Elkins.

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