If you're looking for poetic justice, try the Federal Bar Library. Head librarian Lillian Weber and assistant librarian Hugh Walthall can cite Whitman and Wordsworth as readily as Powell and Stewart.
"They are affiliated, the law and poetry," Weber says. "Exactly how, I'm not certain." Nevertheless, given a choice of equally qualified job applicants, she would hire the poet.
"To care about poetry you have to have a mind that does strange things, that can see many levels of relationship at once," she says. "People who understand poetry are sharper learners, more able to see how things can fit together. Someone who's a business major or an engineering student can't see the way everything in the law library can be interconnected -- they can't pick that up as quickly as a poet can."
Maybe that's why the library has employed a steady parade of poets since 1977, when poet Richard Flynn came to work part time while still an English major at George Washington University. Flynn stayed 10 years, becoming head librarian and finishing his PhD before lighting out for the groves of academe.
His position was promptly filled by Weber, who had
started work at the library in the early '80s soon after she met Flynn at GW, where she was a founding editor of the literary magazine G.W. Review.
Walthall, publisher of Sultan of Swat Books and author of a collection of poems titled Ladidah, joined the library staff in 1985. He says the atmosphere is conducive to writing poetry "because you're around books, there's paper everywhere, and you can always take a minute to jot things down."
"For a poet to be in a library is perfectly natural," he says. "True, this is a law library, so it's more like being in a fish tank than in a lagoon, but it's still my element."