November 9, 2011

The Poetry of (the) Law

John C. Kleefeld, University of Saskatchewan, College of Law, has published From Brouhahas to Brehon Laws: Poetic Impulse in the Law, at 4 Law and Humanities 21 (2010). Here is the abstract.

Over the ages and across the lands, poetry and the law have coming led in courtroom and classroom, debuted together in judicial decisions and dissents, and emerged as one in systems as diverse as the Courts of Equity and the law of the brehons - the poet-judges of ancient Ireland. Lyrical language and the poetic impulse have thus helped to inform, persuade, and advance the law. 

Under the literary conceit of a time travel, the author considers the persistence of poetry in law, addressing the artistic expression of devotees and the commentary of critics. Manifestations of the poetic impulse include poetry as ornament to legal argument, judgments written in poetic form (hence the brouhahas), and the use in law of metre, metaphor, imagination, ambiguity, alliteration, and rhyme. The role of poetry in legal education, from Coke's Reports in Verse to law school haiku, is also traversed. Accompany the author on his journey through the legal ages and hear his case for a continued, albeit cautious, role for poetry-in-law.

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