When it comes to law practice, there’s nothing that quite says “Change of Venue Friday” more than poetry. So let’s get rhymin’.
What made me think of the topic was the annual writing competition by the American Bar Association. The Ross essay contest is almost always—you guessed it—an essay.
Recently, though, the ABA has been on the haiku bandwagon. Given the short attention spans of busy people, 17 syllables may be just about right. You can read more about the contest here.
Unfortunately—and this will be the subject of my poetical rant below—you must be an ABA member to participate. (Full disclosure: Our annual Arizona Attorney Creative Arts Competition is open only to Arizona lawyers. But we’re talking about the ABA, people. Come on. It’s almost a public institution.)
If you are an ABA member, submissions are due September 28. Here are the rules (yes, of course there are rules) and the submission form.
Here is the ABA’s short description (if they could have kept the rules to 17 syllables, THAT would have been an accomplishment):
“In this year’s Ross Essay Contest, we’re looking for 17 syllables that address one of these five topics: Innovation, Inspiration, Law Practice, On Being a Lawyer or the U.S. Supreme Court.”
Members Only? It went out with the jacket.
Yes, that’s right: You must select one of the topics, and be explicit about it; there’s even a dropdown menu on the submission form (just as Bashō originally required, I’m sure).
(And I assume in their topic list they should have included a comma before “or”—otherwise, I may be inclined to write a haiku on the topic “On Being the U.S. Supreme Court.” Hmm. “I got opinions …”.)
So back to my issue with the members-only submissions. Here’s my one-word reaction.
Really? Or, as Judge Learned Hand used to say, “REALLY?”
I get it. Paywalls are everywhere, and members like to feel special. But walling out poets? Say it isn’t so, ABA. You may be full up with tax lawyers, or securities specialists. But I’m willing to wager that your poet coffers are not full to bursting.
So I beseech you.
Don’t get all dictatorial with your caesura. We could be a pair—even a couplet—you and I. Stop being a pest with the anapest. Don’t get literal over your conceit.
We could be epic.
Amidst the constraint of the 5 7 5, I offer a few writing samples, my own protest wrought into rhyme. I invite you to offer your own, my fellow non-ABA members:
Within the gilt gates
ABA members harrumph.
Without, poets seethe.
Fencing out meter
May be lawyerly and all,
But learned it ain’t.
Erskine Mayo Ross
To prod all, not some.
“Yo, tear down these walls,”
Say lawyer poets.
“Rhyme’s for sharin’, bro.”
Have a great weekend.