The Professor in the Courtroom

She’s forced to manage her own face while taking copious notes. She can hardly stand to look at the plaintiff whose pious demeanor gives her the creeps and the defendant looks so wrung out she wants to ignore his sins and send him on a cruise. While the lawyers blather on and witnesses offer their brittle testimony, she prays for beyond a reasonable doubt and examines the tired old question of what is truth? Keats says Beauty is truth, truth beauty, that is all/ye need to know on earth, and all ye need to know. And thank you very much, famous poet who died when he was only 26. She shudders and tries to imagine the whole spectacle as a musical—a thing of beauty--we the jury members hidden in the orchestra pit wielding our instruments, the judge with his silver baton, our conductor, the lawyers tap-dancing with top hats and canes, the witnesses, a chorus, singing a lively tune called The Oath in close harmony, defendant and plaintiff in the wings, ready to burst onto the stage with fingers crossed for their rendition of The Truth—a duet so heartbreaking and beautiful, it would be all ye need to know on earth.

I love how this poem is an elegant knot of ideas. It begins with the Professor's thoughts about the physical appearance of the plaintiff and defendant. One is creepily pious and the other is "wrung out," showing that sometimes beauty is in things that are broken. Since the truth is often broken and messy, it is fitting that her thoughts should go next to Keats. The way she finishes the poem with a gentle reminder of his poem unites and finishes the poem. – Patricia Schlutt, age 18
The professor in this poem is not a creature of politics and law. She thinks of the truth and does not seem to want to understand the ways of the court, seeing the defendant as merely exhausted and the accuser as creepy, probably causing unnecessary trouble. Perhaps this shows the contrast between the academic world and reality; although academics may search for the truth and become exasperated with people who ignore it, the outside world does not generally live by the truth. However, it is ironic that although the professor ponders the question of truth she tries to deceive herself, imagining the ourt as a happier place because she seeks gaiety and happiness. The truth really is perhaps more heartbreaking than beautiful in her case, since the ugliness of the court shows a different world than that which she wishes for. – Laura Crouch, age 20
This piece speaks to the comedy of real life juxtaposed with the philosophy of aesthetics. Such as the speaker describes, readers and deep thinkers often find it difficult to take seriously the circus of everyday life. Though serious, the courtroom is obscure, and renders itself vulnerable to satire. Here, the musical makes for a perfect comparison and breathes life into a moment in time otherwise commonplace. As the speaker "shudders," the reader is also reminded of the dangerous attempt to escape into beauty, and the difficult balancing act between imagination and reality. – Lauren Carlson, age 23
This poem is stunning in its simplicity and analyzes the age old question of what truth and beauty are. The pressures of being on a jury are lightened by imagining everything as a musical in the search for the truth. – Rachel McGuinness, age 20
I love the comparison of the courtroom to a musical. Pederson really shows the similarity of a theatrical perfomance and a courtroom trial. Both musical actors and courtroom lawyers must be well played and believable to their audience. She seems to say that the side who plays it best will win the award of truth.
I like the format of this poem. I think the paragraph writing of this poem creates a better picture of the stage than it would in traditional poetry form. You hear more of the story than just focusing on the singular words. – Daisy Hall, age 14
Through the 3rd Eye was supported in its inception by the Grand Rapids Humanities Council and is currently made possible by continued volunteer effort and private support. Copyright 2013.