Can young vandals be reformed by exposure to poetry? Poetic justice? I'd like to think so, but I have my doubts. According to a short AP story in this morning's Chicago Tribune, "More than two dozen young people who broke into Robert Frost's former home for a beer party and trashed the place are being required to take classes in his poetry as part of their punishment."
The incident happened at the Homer Noble Farm in Ripton, VT, where Frost spent more than 20 summers. It is now owned by Middlebury College. Up to 50 people broke windows and antique furniture and china. They also discharged fire extinguishers and left the carpet soiled with vomit and urine.
The poetry class was apparently the idea of either prosecutor John Quinn or Frost biographer Jay Parini, who is the teacher. I'm a great believer in the therapeutic effects of poetry (see my other blog, "Write your Life!") but I'm cynical enough to hope that the other parts of the young people's punishment are a bit more draconian.
My experience as a teacher taught me that it's hard to get young people, or any people, for the matter, engrossed in poetry or poets, especially dead poets. And poetry as punishment? That doesn't strike me as a way to encourage a love of the art. Still, since the road those students took led to trouble, they may profit from reading "The Road Not Taken."
I'd like to hear from some of those young students after the class is over.