Huh? Today we found not one but two articles on folks who have gotten in trouble for threatening others with poems. Are poems the new anonymous phone calls, now that everyone has caller ID on their cellies?

The Washington Post reports on a man, Johnny Logan Spencer, who was sentenced to 33 months in prison for writing a poem that described the assassination of President Obama. According to the article:

The 28-year-old said in federal court in Louisville on Monday that he was upset over his mother's death and had fallen in with a white supremacist group that had helped him kick a drug habit.

Oh. That explains it.

Meanwhile, The Boston Herald reports on a 17-year old high school student who is facing charges because of writing a poem which threatens to kill two school officials with a shotgun.

Harriet’s curious as to whether these poems literally “threatened” the subjects at hand, or whether they described violent incidents. Is there a difference between a violent fantasy and a threat? Is there a difference between a poem and a violent fantasy? How does the law close-read a poem?

Originally Published: December 7th, 2010