A note on “Law” in Through

David Herd’s Through is not only a well-written, cohesive collection of poems; it’s a story about how syntax, about “who leaves the language” (11), about appellants who are “rarely white” (12), who are “spirited away. Barely rendered present in the first place” (13). Through is a story about immigration rights in England, a rendering that causes anger and frustration, a desire for change.

For class, each student brought in something tangible to lend further meaning to Through. I didn’t bring an object that’s necessarily tangible, per se–I brought some quotes about law and some directly from Britain’s “Immigration Rules.” However, if I ground myself in the things that Through creates and renders as objects–syntax, the lyrical, documentation, language–then I think I am in good company. The first sociologist that I considered was Abraham S. Blumberg, an American professor who wrote an article “The Practice of Law as Confidence Game” in 1967. In this paper, he argued that the defendant has very little power in the court, and rather, the defense attorney, prosecutor, and justice work together to maintain the legitimacy of the court. This process is often at the expense of the defendant, whose personal concerns are not considered in the courtroom. “The client, then, is a secondary figure in the court system as in certain other bureaucratic settings. He becomes a means to other ends of the organization’s incumbents. He may present doubts, contingencies, and pressures which challenge existing informal arrangements or disrupt them; but these tend to be resolved in favor of the continuance of the organization and its relations as before” (Blumberg 1967).

Another article I considered was “Law as a Weapon in Social Conflict,” written by Austin T. Turk in , a sociology professor who taught at the University of California, Riverside. Turk argues many things in this article, most clearly that we can view law in many different ways–as an inherent or “natural” way to resolve conflict, or as a power struggle between different groups or individuals, among others. I think that Blumberg’s and Turk’s analyses are helpful in considering Through because they question the activity of law itself, both in the courtroom as well as “out there” in the world. While the court system is supposed to represent “due process of law,” Blumberg illustrates that oftentimes it actually becomes a due process of quick compromises that reduce “boat-rocking.” Similarly, the supposedly neutral practice of law “out in the world,” according to Turk, can be seen instead as a weapon to favor some groups and oppress others. The implications these theorists’ ideas have when reading Through are vast.

Lastly, I considered some small sections from British Immigration “Rules.” I thought it was interesting that these were called “Rules” rather than “Laws”–it seems to me like a euphemism being made here. One thing I found interesting is that, if the Secretary of State decides a person’s deportation is conducive to the public good, they can legally authorize it. While on the surface this may seem to be a neutral manifestation of law, in reality it represents the ability for state corruption to impede individuals at whim. Another thing I uncovered is that the British government has created tiers to categorize different immigrants by how much they will invest in the national economy–those who will invest more (such as entrepreneurs) are more valued than those who do not have entrepreneurial status. This reveals how money plays a role in politics and how human beings are viewed in light of their economic status.

I think that sociology of law provides a useful lens through which to see David Herd’s poetry collection. As he writes to conclude the collection in “Something my Friend”: “Witness the language / Think of it like / Duplicates in a landscape / Like lyric / Constituting syntax / Forming a politics / One by one” (81).

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