Hopkins (Starting and Managing a Nonprofit Organization, 2017, etc.) offers verses on an underpraised area of the law in this collection.
“Welcome to the world of nonprofit law, / summarized here in a form loosely poetical; / Those with deep allegiance to this law won’t, / I hope, find these renditions heretical.” So begins the first in Hopkins’s cycle of verses. Lawyers who represent nonprofit organizations are similar to regular lawyers—yes, they do get paid—but, as in any other area of the law, there are a few things that are specific to their trade. The title poem, for example, expresses the woes of nonprofit organizations who apply for tax-exempt status, only to fall victim to the Internal Revenue Service’s “commerciality doctrine,” which can deny nonprofit status to organizations “operating in ways that are unduly commercial.” “Charity Begins in the Tome” discusses the legal definition of charity, a term that’s central to nonprofits’ identities. Other poems explain and ruminate on such issues as the same-state rule, or bifurcation, or private inurement: “Consider the doctrine of private inurement; / It is so ponderous and anachronistic. / With its emphasis on net earnings and shareholders, / The doctrine is magnificently atavistic.” Hopkins generally writes in an ABCB rhyme scheme, although he pays little attention to meter, giving his verses a halting, nursery rhyme quality. They do succeed on a semantic level, however, and readers will learn quite a bit about the topics at hand, if they so desire. Hopkins displays an endearing, if goofy, sense of humor, and is well aware of how esoteric the material is: “These offerings are more like inside jokes – how rude! – / than one’s usual and customary poem.” Even so, a poem called “Ode to the Form 990” should ideally still work at the poetic level. Had this collection been a bit less mannerist, it might have been as entertaining to read as it must have been to write.
A collection of legal poetry that’s unusual but doesn’t sing.