Bringing the Text to Life
One snowy night in Vermont, a large group of rowdy teenagers broke into an empty summer house near Middlebury College. In a bout of drinking and partying, they trashed it. They broke a chair and threw it into the fireplace, discharged fire extinguishers, tossed beer cans, smashed china, and soiled the carpet with vomit and urine. The damage exceeded $10,000.
The offenders were caught and then things got interesting. Since the house had belonged to the great American poet Robert Frost, the kids were sentenced to … poetry.
Yes, that’s right. Poetry. You could call it “poetic justice.”
According to The New York Times (June 8, 2008), the criminal justice system called on Jay Parini, a Robert Frost biographer and literature professor. He’d been writing a book called Why Poetry Matters, and this assignment challenged him to put his theory into practice. His job was to try to use poetry both to punish and to rehabilitate them.
One of Parini’s lessons revolved...