‘I’d love it if poetry was required reading for law school’

Harvard Law celebrates National Poetry Month | Jessica Fjeld reads a poem by Terrance Hayes

In this video celebrating National Poetry Month, Harvard Law School Lecturer Jessica Fjeld reads a poem from Terrance Hayes’ 2018 volume “American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin.” She also discusses her spring 2022 poetry reading group, Thinking Like Yourself: Poetry Law, and Social Justice.

Hayes’ poems, which grapple with racial justice in the United States, were among the group’s readings, which explored what it means to have a subjective identity and used poetry as a “way to get inside other people’s heads and other people’s experiences,” said Fjeld.

“There is the common saying that law school teaches you to think like a lawyer and I wanted to dig into that concept and ask who is that … lawyer and what do they think like and how can we use poetry as a tool … to better understand ourselves,” she said.

The reading group focused on lawyer-poets; poetry navigating conflict and its aftermath; and poets confronting existential challenges like racial justice and the climate crisis.

Fjeld, herself a poet and author of Redwork (BOAAT Press 2018), is the recipient of awards from the Poetry Society of America and the 92nd Street Y/ Boston Review.

She is also assistant director of the Cyberlaw Clinic at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, where she focuses her legal practice on issues impacting digital media and art, including intellectual property; freedom of expression, privacy, and related human rights issues; contract law; and corporate law.