The State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has a rhyming judge. Such creatures, like coelacanths, appear from time to time and remind us that once things were different: some fish grew lobed fins, which could be hijacked by evolution and turned to legs; educated people were expected to know how to write verse. Even among poets the latter are now rarer than the coelacanth, and Judge Eakin, though not a particularly skilled example of the genus, has made the news.
Reviews of his work, especially in the legal press, have not been kind to it or to verse in general. New York Lawyer repeats this gem from a fellow judge, Ralph Cappy, "My concern ... lies with the perception that litigants and the public at large might form when an opinion of this court is reduced to rhyme." BurtLaw's Law (scroll near the bottom) opines "It's always amused me that the occasional judge who puts his decision in rhyming verse form typically gets favorable publicity. I guess it goes to show a) how hard up newspapers are for amusing material and b) how easy it is to pass off crap as 'poetry' simply by putting words in rhyming verse form." Burt (I guess) goes on to cite Carl Estabrook on the difference between poetry and verse: "Poetry is a matter of tropes, and verse, of word-schemes."
By that standard, Herrick's "Upon Prue, His Maid," is not poetry, for it deploys not a single trope:
In this little urn is laid
Prudence Baldwin, once my maid,
From whose happy spark here let
Spring the purple violet.
Nor does Frost's "Neither Out Far Nor In Deep":
The people along the sand
All turn and look one way.
They turn their back on the land.
They look at the sea all day.
As long as it takes to pass
A ship keeps raising its hull;
The wetter ground like glass
Reflects a standing gull.
The land may vary more;
But wherever the truth may be--
The water comes ashore,
And the people look at the sea.
They cannot look out far.
The cannot look in deep.
But when was that ever a bar
To any watch they keep?
On the other hand, by virtue of containing a simile, this would be a poem: "It smells like shit."
I'll have more to say next week about this supposed gulf between poetry and verse, after we've wrapped up a major deliverable at work.