There are only two posts up so far, it appears.  I’ll be keeping an eye out for new posts (and who am I kidding, I am absolutely going to submit.  What rhymes with judicata?)

Check out the Law Poetry blog here.

Just a poem today, one I really love from the April 2013 issue of Poetry.

For once, her was just my father.
We drove to the Computing Center
in a Monte Carlo Landau
not technically ours.  Lexington,
1977.  That fall.  The color
had settled, too, undone
orange-brown and dull yellow,
crimson.  And it was something,
yet not, the pile of leaves
just a pile of leaves.  Sorry to think
what thinking has done to landscape:
He loved punched cards,
program decks and subroutines,
assembly languages
and key punch machines.
Even my father looked small
next to a mainframe.
The sound of order;
the space between us.
We almost laughed, but not for years –
we almost laughed.  But not.  For years,
the space between us,
the sound of order
next to a mainframe.
Even my father looked small.
And keypunch machines,
assembly languages,
program decks and subroutines.
He loved punched cards,
what thinking has done to landscape –
just a pile of leaves.  Sorry to think,
yet not, the pile of leaves
crimson.  And it was.  Something
orange-brown and dull yellow
had settled, too, undone
1977, that fall, the color
not technically ours, Lexington
in a Monte Carlo Landau. 
We drove to the Computing Center,
For once he was just, my father.
Randall Mann, from Poetry (April, 2013)

Something about April always makes me think of sestinas, don’t ask me why.  I love that this poem, which is neither a formal sestina nor a pantoum, but a cross between them perhaps, moves from the large (the relationship between fathers and sons) to the small (father standing next to the mainframe, punch cards) and then back again.  Both sestinas and pantoums rely on words or phrases repeated in strict, orderly fashion; they process words, you might say, the way a computer processes the data fed in.  Our relationships might work much the same way.

I also love the way that the phrase “the sound of order” echoes Wallace Stevens’ “The Idea of Order at Key West.”

I’m about 10,000 words behind where I should be to reach my Camp NaNoWriMo goal for this month.  Wish me luck, fellow campers.

Earlier this week in my Research: Deep and Wide post, I wrote about the importance of reading for breadth as well as depth. I referenced quotes from two poets, Susan Howe and Kathleen Ossip, as examples of both kinds of research. It turns out (small world!) that someone forwarded my post to Ms. Ossip, and then this happened:


Of course I immediately whipped up a scathing but hilarious response that alluded to Bukowski’s “poetry readings” and taunted academics about needing to get out a little more. Then I put it aside for a bit while I cooled off; that’s the advice I give my clients when they’re busting down barn doors and I try to abide by it myself.

I’m glad I did, because I’ve revised my response some and this is it.

First, permit me to point out, Ms. Ossip, that I never held you up as a role model for lawyers. For one thing, lawyers work really hard, even during the summer. (So this is still a bit snarky, but much, much less than it was originally.) I used your quote to suggest that good ideas often originate from disparate information absorbed over time. I drew it from a longer quote in which you were discussing how you researched your collection, “The Cold War,” a copy of which I actually have on a shelf in my living room. I liked it, which is part of the reason I was so pleased to see you quoted in Jeff Skinner’s book. Here’s proof:


I included Mary Ruefle’s “Madness, Rack and Honey” in the photo so that a) it would be clear that I wasn’t using a stock photo and b) it would be clear that I am an actual, honest to God consumer of poetry. I go to work, earn money, pay my mortgage and use what’s left over to buy books of poetry and the Kenyon Review. And stuff.

If you read any of the other posts on my blog, you saw that I use literature and poetry pretty frequently. I’ve managed to cobble together a little knowledge of poetry despite not having obtained an M.F.A., I enjoy it, and I like to share it. I believe there is a place for poetry outside of academia, or at least I hope there is. Maybe I should ask you that question. Is it still okay for folks like me to say things about poetry? Or is that a privilege reserved to the faculty room?

Also, maybe you forgot that there are lawyers (and doctors, and clerics, and spinster women in Amherst) who write poetry. Maybe you are even familiar with some of them: Wallace Stevens, Lawrence Joseph, Edgar Lee Masters, Archibald MacLeish. Joseph doesn’t practice, but he’s not an academic either because he only teaches at a law school. And let us not forget Ernest Hemingway, who was not a lawyer or a poet but who did, I understand, chase ambulances at one time. I don’t include myself in that company by any stretch of the imagination. I’m just saying that there is some precedent for lawyers mixing themselves up with poetry. We’re not as boorish as you might think. We don’t even require animal sacrifice at ABA-accredited law schools anymore, although it’s still available as an elective.

My earlier draft came from an insecure, defensive place, because, yep, I do write poetry myself, and it isn’t pleasant when someone you look up to mocks you on Twitter. (Although in fairness and for the record, my post went out to my 2,200+ followers, and yours to your 250. I’m resonating with somebody, apparently.) Then it dawned on me: I’m a rarity in the world of poetry. I have money to buy stuff. And it’s my actual money, not a grant or a fellowship or a gift from Yaddo. I get to write what I want without using up the limited financial resources available to support writers based in academia. The fact that I have built a little audience for my writing means that I get to share poetry – not mine, because I’m not that arrogant, but poems and poets that I really like – with people who don’t subscribe to the Kenyon Review. The last time I checked, that is a good thing, as Martha would say. I’m going to keep doing it. That’s WTF.

Yup, I know.  I’m putting together a couple of things in my head as we speak.

In the meantime, I’m thinking West Chester University for next year’s conference.  Because, you know, new formalism.  And A.E. Stallings.  It will be a stretch for me, and I am by no means sure of admission.  YOLO, right?


Some time back I assured my readers that they wouldn’t have to read my own work.

I lied.

I mean, technically speaking, you’ve been reading my work on this blog thus far, right?

Someone very talented recently offered to read some of my poems if I posted them.  It really is time I stopped being such a ‘fraidy cat about it.  The last time I submitted was in college, and when I got a slew of rejection slips I stopped.  So consider this my cautious dipping of toe into the water.

And remember one thing, because it will keep you honest: A critic is someone who walks onto the field after the battle and shoots the soldiers who are still alive.  I think Anne Lamott said that.  Clearly she is a very wise woman.

Teaching, Said Mr. S., is Nothing More Than Witchcraft

(For Dad)

And with that he lit a match.
His face was all glowing with spooky smiles, and, well,
There was the light of the bonfire, too.
Term papers. And let me tell you –
There’s no smoke so acrid as loose leaf.
I heard him muttering softly, and though hard to make out,
I caught the words Gatsby and darkling and “rocking horse winner”.
Oh, I said, you must teach . . .?  And then,
His laugh was hideous, until
He returned to the lyric of his spell,
Leaping left and right ‘round the fire,
When – all of a sudden, I shudder to write this –
A little spark caught the cuff of one polyester’d pant leg,
Reducing the wizard, in the blink of an eye,
To a yelping – yawping? – pup.
And he ran off, I suppose,
To cool his skin in the snow.
Whose woods these are I think I know,
But his house is in the village.
In the year since then I’ve sold the piano.
If you had seen them haul the weight
Down two floors, where it perched above the sidewalk,
A queer black bird,
Suspended on wire.

I thought when you left I wouldn’t mind too much.
I thought I would find a new means
Of occupying my time. Instead of your bookshelf,
A rubber tree plant. I don’t miss the piano.

I don’t mind the space. A throw rug does wonders
Though I still step around the place where the bench used to be.
The girl downstairs made a card for your birthday
And she skips the thirteenth step,

Like you taught her.

The color I painted the kitchen would not agree with you.
I made a patch for the spot on the sofa.
You wouldn’t know this, you left so much behind.
Things I can’t change or paint or sell.
The place you touched your hand to when
Ginsburg died.
The bare spot on the floor that you paced into the wood,
Waiting to hear. 

On Coleridge

When the divine wind blows, there’s no stopping
Where it goes. So says the man in his armchair scheming,
Who puts pen to paper despite the interruption
Of his dreaming by a person on inconvenient business and with most
Inconvenient timing. Still, the Fragment makes it way onto the page,
Then pages, books, anthologies, bibliographies, biographies
Until it belongs to us entire (and we call this man a sage).
The same wind, what’s more,
Sunk the same Emperor’s fleet five centuries before,
On churning water. The men who stood upon the decks
Of ships that wrecked
Were unprepared to fight this sort of war
And died within a mile of the shore,
While the intended casualties of the siege looked on, and blessed
The wind. Kubla Khan, it seems, in his haste
To lay his enemies to waste
Launched flat-hulled river boats upon a sea
Made treacherous by an inconvenient wind.
It spelled the end of Khan’s excursions, sent him fleeing
To the safety of his dome, where he learned
To bless his home and curse the wind.

Not we, though, in our chairs, said he
Who launched a hundred ships into the wind.
We emperors of oceans making boats both frail
And fit. We loosen moorings, pray for wind to hale
These ships, these paper boats adrift
On endless seas.