Maryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin : August 2010

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ON COLERIDGE
© Jennifer Lubinski. Reprinted with permission of the author.

When the divine wind blows, there's no stopping
Where it goes. So says the man in his armchair scheming,
Who puts pen to paper despite the interruption
Of his dreaming by a person on inconvenient business and with most
Inconvenient timing. Still, the Fragment makes it way onto the page,
Then pages, books, anthologies, bibliographies, biographies
Until it belongs to us entire (and we call this man a sage).
The same wind, what's more,
Sunk the same Emperor's fleet five centuries before,
On churning water. The men who stood upon the decks
Of ships that wrecked
Were unprepared to fight this sort of war
And died within a mile of the shore,
While the intended casualties of the siege looked on, and blessed
The wind. Kubla Khan, it seems, in his haste
To lay his enemies to waste
Launched flat-hulled river boats upon a sea
Made treacherous by an inconvenient wind.
It spelled the end of Khan's excursions, sent him fleeing
To the safety of his dome, where he learned
To bless his home and curse the wind.
Not we, though, in our chairs, said he
Who launched a hundred ships into the wind.
We emperors of oceans making boats both frail
And fit. We loosen moorings, pray for wind to hale
These ships, these paper boats adrift
On endless seas.

Words have come naturally to attorney and poet Jennifer Lubinski since a very young age.

"My dad was an English teacher," says Lubinski, a litigator with the Baltimore office of the law firm of Funk & Bolton, PA. "I was reading Conrad Richter and Sherwood Anderson and John Donne [as a child] because I thought that's what everybody read."

Lubinski soon demonstrated her own aptitude for writing, and her work gained notice from teachers, and even won contests, as early as elementary school. But while Lubinski tried her hand at many different writing styles over the years, she always found herself returning to poetry, and the "free verse" that she writes to this day.

"By the time I got to college, I had started reading T.S. Eliot and Marianne Moore and Rainer Maria Rilke, and I knew that poetry was what I cared most about," she admits. "I sort of veered off into fiction for a few years while I was taking creative writing classes at [Johns] Hopkins, but truthfully, I'm not very good with plot or characterization."

Lubinski's inclination toward poetry, however, only complemented her chosen career path. "When I started thinking about law school, I realized that many poets are [or were] also lawyers, and vice versa," she notes. "I suspect there is a common interest in language, in the way it works and sounds, but also that lawyers share at least some common heritage with poets. In ancient Ireland, a class of poets known as fili served as lawgivers and judges for the community." 

"I like words," she continues. "There is an aesthetic quality in poetry, just like there is in music and art.  The human ear likes certain sounds and rhythms. Good poetry makes use of consonance and meter and rhyme for that purpose."

As a poet, Lubinski prefers to write about "big subjects."

"It's not a term of art – it's just my way of thinking about the way I prefer to write," she explains. "A lot of poets are now writing, and a lot of editors are looking for, what I think of as snapshot poems…poems that try to capture in crisp, clear imagery the look and feel of something or someone at a particular moment in time, like an MRI machine. Some of it is fantastic, but personally I find a lot of it too clinical. I write about what moves me personally, and for me that means bigger concepts, like music or the nature of art or faith or science. All of those things can become vague if you're not careful, thought, so it's about finding a way to write about big things in a concrete way. I definitely do not always achieve that, but that's what I'm working towards."

Lubinski has drawn inspiration from sources as disparate as the work of theoretical physicist Brian Greene and Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "Kubla Khan".

"SENDING FLAT-
hulled boats out onto the ocean is a little like writing poetry: you cobble together what you have, send it off and hope it makes it."

JENNIFER LUBINSKI

"I wrote ‘On Coleridge' after watching a documentary about the Japanese legend of the ‘Divine Wind', and how they believe their island was protected from an attack by Kubla Khan by the wind," Lubinski recalls. "Scientists now are figuring out that Khan used flat-bottomed river boats that he plundered from China, and that those boats couldn't withstand the force of a hurricane, so the whole fleet was wiped out."

"It struck me that sending flat-hulled boats out onto the ocean is a little like writing poetry: you cobble together what you have, send it off and hope it makes it," she muses. "Coleridge, who wrote a poem about Kubla Khan which famously came from a ‘fragment of a dream' that was interrupted by someone calling at his door, built boats that survived the test of time. I suppose that is what anyone who writes dreams of doing."

Lubinski herself dreams of one day drafting "a dramatic poem like Frost's ‘Home Burial', which is one of my favorite poems of all time," or even "writing a motion in rhyming iambic pentameter."

"But that will have to wait till the end of my career," she admits, "when hopefully I have a bit more gravitas."


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Publications : Bar Bulletin: August 2010

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