This is question I’ve been asked (and have asked myself) every since I knew I would be doing jury service these two weeks. Having been given a day off tomorrow (a case finished today) I’ve been thinking about this. It could be an ideal opportunity to observe/experience something new, and comment on it in some interesting way. But in my heart I also know poems don’t really pop up like that, and it’s often the most mundane of encounters – an odd word, a small thing, not a big event – that leads to a poem.
And I know from experience that the really difficult subjects can take years to enter the mind in such as way as to suggest a poem.
I can’t pretend I wasn’t reluctant to do this particular public service, and I anticipated a lot of waiting around, being directed by endless rules and formalities and possibly many hours in a courtroom listening to less-than-scintillating cases. What I didn’t anticipate was quite how much it can get to you, listening to the minutiae of other people’s lives, the dreadful sadness of watching people completely crushed by what they’re going through – people who are total strangers, and yet you can’t help but care. It almost feels like you’re watching a play, because you’re sat there as passive as an audience, and yet this is real life – real people, real consequences.
Jurors aren’t allowed to talk about the cases. Not when they’re ongoing, and not ever. And that can be quite an emotional burden. Will I get a poem out of it? Maybe. But not yet. I could write about it, but I don’t think I’d be able to step back enough from it to craft it up.
Courtroom drama – big business for fiction, but is it a common theme in poetry I wonder?