Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Que Serra, Serra: Remembering Tony Serra is Pure Poetry


Out of the blue, last month,  someone contacted me on Twitter to ask permission to use an old photo of mine of Brownie Mary for a magazine article in a Capitol Hill rag, National Journal. 

I've been asked before for permission to use that Brownie Mary photo but I've declined as there were always strings attached—like relinquishing my copyright. Wiki, really? Really, 420 Archive? Permission to use my work by a non-profit is one thing. But completely giving it away, nope.

Anyway, once again dusting off Mary's photos, I came across photos of Tony Serra, and wondered how he was doing, if he was still alive. Apparently very much so judging from this blog link I found (posted below). I found myself rewriting a rather longish blerb to go with the link I had on my Facebook page. So, why not here as well?


I first met the legendary criminal defense lawyer Tony Serra, a self-avowed “anti-lawyer lawyer,” when he defended Brownie Mary Rathbun pro bono on a medical marijuana charge. I've been known to attend a poetry reading or two in his law offices.

Though he hails from working class roots, like Fr. Junipero Serra, Tony's no stranger to poverty, having taken an informal vow of poverty. Tony's no stranger to poetry either: he went to Stanford where a post-graduate poetry class influenced his thinking. 

Described as a "warrior with a touch of sainthood," Serra drives a $500 clunker and goes to Goodwill for his threads. He lives in Bob Kaufman’s old apartment building in North Beach, and is also a consummate “semantic warrior. ”Talk about MANIFESTO! 

In his autobiography, Serra wrote while in prison for tax evasion in 2005: “I became armed with a green obsidian semantic spear. My final closing argument thundered with green lightning flashing from the podium.” 

Tony thinks laterally much like the surrealist French poet, Rimbaud, rearranging the senses—challenging what people think they know. Serra's oratory style has been described as part poetry, pure conviction, and pure theater.

He says he's a criminal defense lawyer in order to to keep the courts and government honest. ''In the courtroom I'm a true believer, and a true believer's the most dangerous man alive.'' Tony was a Latin scholar and a lawyer whose rhetoric and flamboyance in the court is grounded in classical education. 

See the 1989 film based on the legendary Tony Serra, "True Believer", if you get a chance.

Mary Jane Rathbun (December 22, 1921 - April 10, 1999), aka Brownie Mary, was an American hospital volunteer who became internationally known as a medical cannabis activist. —Wikipedia

Tony Serra Wikipedia

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