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Judges and Poets

Judge Roberts said to attorney Bonauto in the marriage equality case before the US Supreme Court: You say you want to join the institution of marriage, but it seems to me actually what you want to do is change the institution.    But ultimately he and his fellow judges will make a decision that allows our society to move on, and one would hope,  in a direction of greater justice. As they do so they will have to embody their intuitions about what is justice in language that will have force for a community.

Every time a poet writes a line of poetry he or she is going through the same process:

  • how much am I changing this institution of English by joining this line to it, this word to it, this metaphor to it, this poem to it?
  • What is my intuition about what needs to be expressed and how can I express it?
  • What about the sacrifice of everything that I fail to say?  When I choose to compare my lover’s eyes to the moon I condemn everything else I could compare them to to death: the sun, the stars, a dog, a cat, a dream, a stork, a whisper, a confusion, a meteor, a net, a trap, a judge, a poet, a death sentence, a wheel, a throne, a forgetting, a remembering, an amnesia, creation, the last judgment, the three billy goats gruff.  How can I stand before these condemned similes to death?  How do I look them in the face bearing the judge’s guilt?  How can I be fair?

Both judge and poet are cramming the infinite in a finite body so we can move on in a direction of greater flourishing.  Both need to be humble and judgmental by turns to get the job done.

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6 thoughts on “Judges and Poets

  1. Mikey says:

    The judge who becomes a judge for the love of the law and the poet who becomes a poet for the love of words and the explorer who becomes an explorer for the love of the unknown are all killing the thing they love. For each man kills the thing he loves, yet each man does not die.

      • Mikey says:

        In the way you described. By adding his own judgments to it. After that, it’s not the same law he fell in love with. Perhaps though, you could say that the judge isn’t diminishing the law but adding to it, unlike the explorer who is diminishing the unknown. Or the lover who is diminishing the beloved. Maybe the lover is the middle ground. Adding to the beloved, but also as a result diluting the original.

  2. Mikey says:

    Hm. I hadn’t thought about that. No, I don’t think so. But by loving something you change it, and then it’s not the thing you loved before. It might well be better. You also change yourself, so you kill yourself a bit too. But then the poem goes “Yet each man does not die”…

    I just read the whole of that poem and I’m not sure he was getting at the thing I thought he was getting at.

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