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Juvenile Delinquents to Write, Perform Poetry

Judge Merrilee Ehrlich of Broward is making juvenile delinquents write and perform poetry as a condition of their probation and in lieu of more intense community service.

In a Sun-Sentinel story published this morning, Judge Ehlrich explains that she "wanted to make [their service] a creative endeavor; something positive. Something to turn the atrophied muscle on top of their heads into a working brain."

What a brilliant idea! The arts in general, and poetry in particular, have long been associated with law and orderliness, as our juvenile delinquents will learn should they become enamored with the form.

They will encounter, for example, Paul Verlaine, the symbolist poet who absconded with the adolescent Arthur Rimbaud to engage in a transgenerational, absinthe-maddened affair that ended with a gunfight. They will meet Rimbaud himself, who went on to become a deserter in the Dutch navy. They will encounter the alcoholic Poe, who married his 13-year-old cousin, and the brilliant Coleridge, who did his best work on opium. They will encounter the dismemberment-obsessed shut-in Emily Dickinson; the dissolute Dylan Thomas; the acid-guzzling NAMBLA member Allen Ginsberg and his wife-murdering mentor, William S. Burroughs.

Oh, what joys await these children! And if poetry doesn't convince them to become law-abiding citizens, at the very least, it'll expand their criminal imaginations. Judge Ehrlich's job could get a helluvalot more interesting.

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Brandon K. Thorp

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