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Night Circus
by Kristen Roedell
12 poems/22pp
Western Newspaper Publishing
537 East Ohio St.
Indianapolis, IN 46204-2173
Reviewed by: Ed Bennett

WH Auden lamented "It is a sad fact about our culture that a poet can earn much more money writing or talking about his
art than he can by practicing it." Auden himself was a teacher, as is Billy Collins and Seamus Heany. AE Houseman, like
the contemporary poet Ted Kooser, worked for an insurance company. The list is seemingly endless with poets coming from
the ranks of physicians (William Carlos Williams), secretaries (Ann Sexton), postal employees (Charles Bukowski) ad
infinitum. Add to this list Kristen Roedell, a family practice lawyer whose work has graced the pages of this magazine.

There are few instances where ones work career and ones poetry can come together and Ms. Roedell has had the good fortune
to find one of these rare niches. The Legal Studies Forum was established by the American Legal Studies Association to
explore trans-disciplinary studies, especially from the humanistic and critical viewpoints. Among this year’s publications
by the Forum is Ms. Roedell’s Night Circus, a collection of poetry running the gamut from Claude Monet’s wife to the practice
of law. I have been reading Ms. Roedell’s poetry for nearly four years and, to date, I have never seen any poetry concerning
her practice. However, she approaches law with the same deft hand that has been her trademark in her other poems.

Among the poems in this collection is “Monet to his Wife, While Winding the Sheets”, an ekphrastic poem after Claude Monet’s
“Camille on her Deathbed”. Camille Monet was wife, model and inspiration to Monet. At her death, he mourned the only way he
knew how – he painted her one last time. Ms. Roedell captures the poignancy of this hour with her lines

“This morning you lay veiled and absent.
I painted you a final time;
Camille, you fled
and took with you every hue.”

One can almost hear the sobs in the short, declarative lines as he paints. This is also an image unique to the talent of Ms.

“What Persists in Rising” is a very personal poem reminiscent of the Confessional School of Robert Lowell. The narrator in
the poem is a family practice lawyer, among the lowest earning of the legal profession, staggering to court in a maternity
dress and

“…clients strung along behind me,
carrying children
with gum in their hair.”

While the media persists in giving us images of lawyers in Armani, Ms. Roedell gives us a dose of truth. There are diffi-
culties in lugging boxes and constraining vulnerable children bandied about by divorce and the money doesn’t flow until
the second dunning letter.

“Family Law” is perhaps her most personal poem with flashes of brutal honesty. Again, the truth of the rigors of the law
is displayed against a backdrop of righteous anger. As a client pays his final fee (after having languished in the “beyond
30 days pile”), he allows one final barb before leaving.
“He says, during this visit

‘This is how you lawyers all get rich’.

I tell my favorite lawyer joke,
the one about the 500 dead lawyers.

Then, I take out the garbage,
tie my Volvo door shut with twine,
and peel out toward the
daycare parking lot.”

No Ferrari, no calf skin brief care, tardy payments and no “assistant” to pick up the kids. This is not a John Grisham work
but it has the ring of truth. My only concern with this work is that it is too brief. It would behoove the Legal Studies Forum
to commission a longer work from Ms. Roedell perhaps focusing exclusively on practicing law. It would definitely allow an in-
sight into the profession but, more importantly, it would give Ms. Roedell an opportunity to create more of her fluid imagery
in this seldom explored field.

If you appreciate poetry you should read this book for your entertainment. If you are a lawyer, read it for your soul.

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