Take That! Poetry as Punishment

Here’s a nice variation on the “Changing Lives Through Literature” approach to crime and punishment:

The criminal justice system in Ripton, Vt., prescribed poetry, of all things, as punishment — and we hope rehabilitation — for 25 teenagers (townies all) who broke into Frost’s old summer house in the woods last December. They trashed it during a snowy night’s bout of drinking and partying.

Skeptical at first, Mr. Parini, who teaches at nearby Middlebury College, accepted the invitation to teach the wayward teens. He did not pull any iambic punches in class last week.

One lesson was built around “The Road Not Taken,” Frost’s caution on the fateful choices that crop up in the dense woods of life. Harsher still was the choice of “Out, Out,” Frost’s account of a youth’s precious life spilling away in a sawmill accident amid the heedless glories of Vermont.

“They seemed shaken to their foundations,” said Mr. Parini, not that surprised. “A wake-up call: don’t waste your life.” (read the rest here)

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