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Poet-Attorney Highlights Synergies between Law & Storytelling


Why would capacity crowds gather at Hamline University School of Law in March to hear from, of all things, a poet? It's not as incongruent a scene as one might imagine. Not, at least, if the poet in question is Martin Espada, a former tenant lawyer, widely published and lauded poet, and professor of English at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, where he teaches creative writing and the work of Pablo Neruda. (Espada is pictured above, center, with Hamline Graduate School of Liberal Studies Dean Mary Rockcastle and Hamline Law Professor Jon Garon.)

"What is advocacy but storytelling? I try to use the facts as I understand them to create a poem, but you are also engaged in an act of imagination. The facts and the imagination come together and produce something written by a lawyer," Espada explained. "Think of what happens when you draft an affidavit. I'd write an affidavit in the first-person voice of my client. You can adopt another voice when you write affidavits and you can do it when you write a persona poem."

The presentation by Professor Espada, which can be heard at, was an inaugural event for the new JD-MFA joint degree program offered by Hamline University School of Law and the Graduate School of Liberal Studies. The program is the only joint Juris Doctor and Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing degree in the nation. More information about the program can be found at