Illinois Bar Journal

July 2016Volume 104Number 7Page 52

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The 2016 ISBA Poetry Slam

[Kewanee lawyer and 2015 ISBA poetry contest winner Justin Raver hosted this year's competition and had this to say about the entries:]

Based on my haikus from last year, I was surprised when the ISBA asked me to host its 2016 Poetry Slam. My guess is they wanted to stop me from posting so much silly stuff this year.

What I couldn't guess was the quality of work that would be submitted in 2016. There were dozens of impressive entries.

The winner is "Quo Ante" by Meghan VanLeuwen of Chicago. Her work is touching and emotional while cleverly adhering to the "lawyering in the digital age" theme by looking back to the pre-digital age. Meghan's prizes were a $100 Barnes and Noble gift card and a copy of the four-volume The Papers of Abraham Lincoln: Legal Documents and Cases. Congratulations!

Quo Ante

By Meghan VanLeuwen

When I was a young girl
we would sometimes visit my Father
at his law office
in the center of the small town where we lived.

Shag carpet, dark wood, legal tomes -
air thick and serious as Church.
We ran our fingers across file cabinets, typewriters, rolodexes.
Great stacks of briefs, like Corinthian columns, adorned every surface.

There were no computers in my Father's practice.
There were no emails either, but sometimes at night he would speak softly into a Dictaphone,
a staccato rhythm accompanying soft scratches of lead on legal pad.

There was no constant connection then.
When my Father left the office,
he was truly gone.

While Meghan's poem was not a haiku, many were submitted, a number of them by the same prolific poet. If there were an award for quantity of clever submissions, Californian Julie Isen would win it easily. Her entry "Haiku for my Hatred of the Phone" stood out for its blunt recognition of the feelings of many young lawyers (myself included). It is funny and on topic. "Midnight Client Text" by Kathleen Elliott of Bolingbrook was another favorite haiku, as there is truth in its humor as well.

Haiku for My Hatred of the Phone

By Julie Isen

Answering the phone
for millennial lawyer;
please just send email

Midnight Client Text

By Kathleen Elliott

Midnight client text
Melodic tinkling alert
Awakens the dog

I would be remiss if I did not recognize "Paper and Pens" by Rick Hobler of Lincoln. Like "Quo Ante," Rick's poem demonstrated a high level of skill and talent.

Paper and Pens

By Rick Hobler

I used to take comfort in knowing
that the time between the coming and going of information and all kinds of chatter
was at least seven days (or perhaps even longer!) without even the slightest bit of care about the matter.

this is no longer the case,
for when an e-mail, or a text, or a tweet comes to my attention it must be answered and not neglected
in a matter of minutes (or even seconds!) lest someone arrive at the "obvious" conclusion
that I don't really give a damn or perhaps am just lost in my own confusion.

With the
chime of my phone
or a "ping" on my computer
I must react and respond
like an infatuated suitor
to review this new inquiry
and respond, in kind,
with some message filled with wisdom
or, at times, not worth even a dime.

But take heart all you Esquires
who practiced beforehand!
All is not lost
to this new way of practice!
For on THAT one day in your office
suspends….. (God forbid!)
You will be the ONLY one
who is able to use
Paper and Pens.

The large number of high-quality submissions made the judges' job both difficult and fun. Thank you to everyone who entered, and thank you ISBA for letting me host this competition. The 2016 entries are online at

- Justin Raver

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