Essay

Word Theft

Why did 2013 become the year of the plagiarists?

by Ruth Graham
Word Theft
Roman poet, Martial

Paisley Rekdal got two Facebook messages last January from fellow poets who had some disturbing news: a poet in England by the name of Christian Ward had taken an old poem of hers and published it, barely altered, as his own. Her first reaction was to wonder if it was some kind of experiment. Perhaps by changing the gender of the author of a poem about infidelity and infertility, he was teasing out new meanings?

Then she saw the “new” poem, with its new line breaks and minor but grating word changes. It was obviously a work of deception, not conceptual play. “That’s the thing that enraged me,” she said recently. “If he had just plagiarized the poem and published under his name, I would have been less annoyed. When I saw he wanted to take part in something I had done myself and claim it as his own, I felt kind of violated.”

Rekdal, who responded to Ward with a righteously angry blog post (and later a more melancholy one), is not the only one feeling violated these days. The poetry world experienced something of a plagiarism epidemic last year. CJ Allen withdrew from the shortlist of England’s Forward Prize in September when it was revealed that he had plagiarized some of his past work. Australian poet Andrew Slattery was stripped of three prizes when it turned out he had cribbed from Emily Dickinson and Sylvia Plath, among others. When caught, he claimed the poems were written in the cento form, in which each line is pulled from another source; he also called his work “a cynical experiment.”

The list goes on: British poet David R. Morgan admitted last spring that many of his poems, stretching back to at least the 1980s, had been plagiarized. Rekdal’s perpetrator turned out to have stolen from several other poets, including Helen Mort and Sandra Beasley. Graham Nunn, longtime organizer of a major Australian poetry festival, was accused last September of at least eight instances of plagiarism, which he defended in part as “sampling”; on his blog, he wrote that “[r]eading and listening to music are a vital part of my process” and that “parts of the original text are creatively appropriated in the formation of a new work.” These are all published, and often prize-winning, poets—they are not students or amateurs. Why did 2013 become the year of the plagiarists?

Writing is a dance that involves imitation, inspiration, and originality. But all things considered, writerly disapproval of plagiarism has remained remarkably consistent over the centuries—really, even over millennia. The Roman poet Martial accused his rival Fidentinus, whom he called a “miscreant magpie”: “My books need no one to accuse or judge you: the page which is yours stands up against you and says, ‘You are a thief.’” Martial was particularly galled that Fidentinus had mixed in his own inferior work with Martial’s original material. Yes, approaches to borrowing and attribution have shifted over time, but wholesale copying has never been kosher.

T.S. Eliot, who relied on other sources for much of “The Waste Land” (plagiarism or allusion?), famously wrote, “Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal.” Less often quoted is the next line, “Bad poets deface what they take.” This is what seems to gall many victims of plagiarists: to see their poems reprinted in weaker versions than the original.

Ruth Ellen Kocher, a Colorado-based poet and professor, recently learned that her 2004 poem “Issues Involving Interpretation” had been plagiarized online by an Australian named Vuong Pham. Pham kept her line breaks intact but changed a few words and added some new lines. “When he stole my work, he didn’t make it better,” Kocher said. “If my work was going to be taken and pilfered in that way, I would have loved to see it undergo a transformation and evolution.” Instead, she said, it reminded her of a “reverse revision”: his small changes actually made the poem worse.

Since the 19th century, when the Romantics embraced what Marilyn Randall, a professor of French studies at the University of Western Ontario and the author of a 2001 book on literary plagiarism, calls the “authentic poetic soul,” borrowing has become even more cemented as a literary crime. (Rekdal refers to her plagiarist as a Romantic, because “he was trying to tie his own imagination to the poem and claim it.”) Even in our age of collage and appropriation and “intertextuality,” it’s only at the extreme edges of such experimentation that you’ll find even mild defenses of outright plagiarism.

Despite the fact that plagiarism has always been taboo, readers are often more forgiving of historical offenses. As Thomas Mallon puts it in his insightful 1989 book on plagiarism, “Stolen Words,” “Everyone enjoys a good scandal in the present…. What we seem far less able to endure is that plaster cast falling from the library shelf: Its shattering somehow bothers us more than the live body going off the cliff.” Samuel Taylor Coleridge, for example, was an inveterate thief, but he remains firmly in the canon. Hart Crane borrowed heavily from a lesser-known poet named Samuel Greenberg, most notably in his early poem “Emblems of Conduct.” (“No doubt he meant to acknowledge his debt,” James Laughlin wrote in 1939. “It simply slipped his mind.”)

More recently, the British conceptual poet Ira Lightman, who was behind many of last year’s revelations, got involved simply because he didn’t see anyone else doing it. “The poetry world is genteel,” he said. “People don’t like to make any kind of stir.” Lightman has taken it upon himself to comb through suspect work, alert the victims, and publicize his findings.

But even Lightman, who spent untold hours last year ferreting out violators, doesn’t want to banish them indefinitely. “I don’t see them all as these sinister, plotting, Machiavellian characters,” he said. “I see it as a corruption. And we’re all vulnerable to corruption.” He suggests that transgressors retreat to self-publishing for a few years, prove themselves honest, and then return to the fold.

If plagiarists are not sinister and Machiavellian, then why do they do it? This question gets asked every time there’s a fresh revelation of plagiarism, whether it’s in the literary world, journalism, or academia. There’s never a satisfying answer, but there are at least lots of guesses, often somewhat at odds with each other: laziness or panic, narcissism or low self-esteem, ambition or deliberate self-sabotage.

In poetry, at least, everyone agrees it’s not about the money. “One of the hardest things is that the stakes in poetry are not very high,” Kocher said. “I’m not a rocket scientist. I’m not going to cure cancer with one of my poems. I don’t get paid an extraordinary amount of money, and I don’t have any great notoriety outside of the writing community. So to take something that most people engage in as an act of joy and sully it this way—it just seems one of the most egregious offenses.”

But does anyone write just for the money? Laurence Sterne, the plagiarist author of Tristram Shandy, said he wrote “not to be fed but to be famous.” Now, of course, he is. It worked.

The Internet has made both plagiarism itself and its detection much easier for everyone. But the major cases that came up in 2013 have all concerned British and Australian poets, often, but not always, cribbing from American ones. Despite some speculation that our national character makes us less likely to plagiarize—Americans are obsessively respectful of private property! American egos are too big to rely on other people’s work!—there’s also the possibility that Americans have simply been lucky enough to not be caught in the current dragnet.

For one, the primary detective is British, more familiar with the Commonwealth scene than the American one. And it’s not as if Americans haven’t been caught in the past. An Iowa poet named Neal Bowers, a former editor of Poet and Critic magazine, wrote a 1997 book about tracking down the Illinois elementary school teacher who published work copied from Bowers in 13 journals over the course of a few years. “It’s a very uneasy feeling,” Bowers told the New York Times at the time, “a bit like having a stalker.”

The gut reactions of the plagiarized are hard to predict. The poet and essayist H.L. Hix, for example, found out in October that his work had been lifted by Graham Nunn in an Australian anthology of love poems. He said his first reaction to getting the news from Lightman was sheer surprise: “As a poet one gets used to being completely ignored.”

Some victims feel moved to reach out the perpetrators. Kocher sent a note to Pham through Facebook after he posted a brief apology, which has since been removed, on his blog. She hasn’t heard back. (Pham has defended himself by saying he was simply naive and not taught about proper attribution; he also recently wrote that he has become a victim of cyberbullying.)

After Paisley Rekdal posted her open letter to Christian Ward on her blog, she also asked online for an apology from him. She got one: a one-sentence email that she recalls as something to the effect of “I’m sorry, I’m not this kind of person.” It’s the kind of open, vacuous statement that could make you hate someone, or feel sorry for them, or both at once. “He gave me what I asked for,” she said, “but he gave me no more than what I asked for.”

Is there such a thing as a resolution to a plagiarism story? Plagiarism isn’t a crime, there’s no universally accepted punishment for it, and the perfect expression of contrition may never come. Hix, for his part, says he has no plans to get in touch with Graham Nunn. “These were love poems that are being stolen,” he said. “I don’t have any more interest in speaking with Mr. Nunn than I would with the person who had broken into my house and stolen my property.”

Originally Published: January 7, 2014

COMMENTS (23)

On January 10, 2014 at 5:15pm larry wrote:
Talent borrows, genius steals.

- Oscar Wilde

Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different from that from which it was torn; the bad poet throws it into something which has no cohesion.

In T.S. Eliot’s ‘The Sacred Wood: Essays on Poetry and Criticism’. 1922.

(T.S. Eliot ‘welds’ his theft of Oscar Wilde's words of ~ 20 years earlier..)

On January 11, 2014 at 11:18pm Tiffany wrote:
Ruth, I found this to be a good article. I consider myself a novice poet
of 30 years but I would never plagerize. Oh my heart sinks at the
thought of it. I have practiced in my journals, mimicking styles of
poetry (with encouragement from other writers), but it is entirely
different than posting, publishing or even being awarded for someone
else's work. Yikes. Thanks.

On January 13, 2014 at 9:39am James13 wrote:
Fascinating piece, Ms. Graham, I've shared it with several
friends. Nobody likes to be scammed, and yet, I can't see
how it ends.

On January 13, 2014 at 11:17am Mel wrote:
I find it very interesting that the majority of the examples you use
concern a male taking from female writers without attribution.
Wondering if that's a bias in your writing, or an overall trend in the
discovered plagiarised poetry.

On January 13, 2014 at 12:56pm Jim wrote:
The unfortunate conclusion I have come to after reading this article is that not even people who give out poetry awards are reading poetry.

On January 13, 2014 at 1:20pm David Pittelli wrote:
Another reason one might plagiarize: the thrill of doing
wrong or being naughty. Who hasn't done something
precisely because it is immoral, taboo or illegal?

It may also help that plagiarism's victim isn't really
victimized in the way other victims of theft are (the
poem doesn't disappear from his collection). This lets
the thief continue to think of himself as a basically
good person despite his transgression.

I have known Jews who delighted in eating bacon, not
just because it is delicious, but also because for them
it is a transgression. I envy them, as I would have to
break the law, smoke unhealthy cigarettes, or cheat on
my wife to experience the same thrill.

On January 13, 2014 at 1:52pm Antonia Thomas wrote:
Today, students sign Academic Integrity Statements; then, when they're
caught plagiarizing, tell faculty, "Nobody reads those things." It is
increasingly apparent that plagiarism is becoming a meaningless, old
fashioned ideal. Nonetheless, I continue to tell my students that trying to
pass off someone else's work or ideas as their own is intellectual theft, no
different than if I put my watch on my desk and one of them walks off with
it while my back is turned.

On January 13, 2014 at 4:05pm Lady Andess wrote:
Tiffany,
You might want to "plagiarize" some basic spelling and grammar.

On January 13, 2014 at 11:03pm Another Poet wrote:
This article itself has been plagiarized, published under Janey Smith's name at HTMLGiant.

On January 15, 2014 at 5:39am David Pierce wrote:
The quotation of T. S. Eliot, given by Ms Graham and expanded by larry in the first comment above, would seem to respect the recommendation of his contemporary and admirer R. G. Collingwood: "Let all such artists as understand one another, therefore, plagiarize each other’s work like men. Let each borrow his friends’ best ideas, and try to improve on them." This is from Collingwood's 1938 book _The Principles of Art,_ which is still in print; a fuller quotation is on my blog: http://polytropy.wordpress.com/2014/01/15/copyright/
I wonder if Ms Graham is quite right to say, "wholesale copying has never been kosher." If it hasn't been, it should be, argues Collingwood (and his own books have no copyright notices); and I see no reason to disagree, except that sources ought to be acknowledged. I am not a poet, but I did discover once that some photographs from my own website had been published without attribution on a newspaper's website: some "journalist" had been too lazy to go out and take his/her own photos of the sites in question.

On January 15, 2014 at 8:07pm Garry Speake wrote:
How could it be that this is not a crime
with punishments metered out by a legal
system ?

Is it true that its not on the books as a
crime ?

Can't you get a lawyer to send a stop,
cease & desist letter threatening to sue
if they don't remove it from book stores
or internet or whatever ?

Doesn't infringement of copyright apply to
poetry like it does to songs &
songwrighting ?

Anybody...?....?....

On January 16, 2014 at 2:31am Marton Radkai wrote:
"The Internet has made both plagiarism itself and its detection much easier for everyone."

Not the Internet alone. In May 2011, the last tyewriter factory closed, it was in Bangladesh. That instrument, loud, unwieldy, requiring physical labour manipulate, was one of the barriers to plagiarism. I would say that copy/paste or Apple/x/c/v/ is what truly boosted plagiarism.

Other points (and then I do have to get to work trying to write original material)....

1. If you don't see the crime, you may not know it. How much untracked plagiarism is there in foreign languages. Do you track the material written in English in Chinese, Kazalh, Bulgarian, Estonian, French? And vice-versa.

2. Writing is no longer considered something worth paying for. See Elance and other organizations that foster dumping prices onto writers and attract the ragged-penned philanthropists by the droves. Apparently paying for content to fill up the pages is no longer an issue. So, people steal the stuff. It's easier. There are entire blogs fed daily with the material written by others.

A leap of thought.... plagiarism is the logical outcome of our obsession with technology combined with the Religion of Efficiency (which by its very nature is an enemy of poetry) and the assasination of leisure to make way for permanent labour.

On January 16, 2014 at 7:40pm Chase Fraley wrote:
"For we want to make off / with things that are not / our own. There is a
pleasure / theft brings, a vitality / to the home. / Cribbed objects or
answers / keep their guilty shimmer / forever, have you noticed?"

from Kay Ryan's poem "Crib"

On January 17, 2014 at 10:25am Ed Granger wrote:
This is why I am extremely uneasy about participating in online
workshops and forums and sharing work. Since these pieces would not
have been previously published, it would be very difficult to detect this
kind of theft. Obviously, a poet whose excellence is widely
acknowledged would at first glance be a much more likely target. But I
think someone who is very desirous of being published might easily
steal lines or whole poems from someone else's work that they
considered merely better than their own.

On January 17, 2014 at 11:33am Maryhelen wrote:
David-- if sources are acknowledged, then it is not plagiarism. Is that not the point of the article?

No wonder it goes on, when so many, not only think it's o.k to do it, but encourage, recommend, and consider it an art in and f itself. Their point is to be good at it-- the writing/stealing and if you get caught, so what?

It also goes on and has gone on in the past, in the world of music. Quite a bit, often unnoticed, until the internet. The difference, (it's a big $$$ one) royalties are often hefty. and litigation does go on.

On January 17, 2014 at 2:03pm Cece Fran wrote:
While teaching high school and college courses,
professors encourage students to write in the style of
poet, author, thinker.Its a healthy exercise, but
sophomoric as a flag to wave. My biggest disappointment
with Allen Ginsberg was the time I read Kenneth
Patchen's book- Journal of Albion Moonlight, and
exclaimed after a close reading of "Howl",immediately
after, that Ginberg had very deftly changed the words
but not the cadence or intent. I would suggest that he
did the same with poems of Delmore Schwarz among
others- I had the opportunity to compliment Ginsberg on
his technique but I am sure his ardent fans erased any
discomfort I caused.

On January 18, 2014 at 11:05am Eva Bednar wrote:
The Atlantic has a good overview on the thrill of the
cheat: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/01/who-cheatsand-why/355743/ and the "cheater's high." What a thrill to shoplift and maybe even get caught? :)

On January 19, 2014 at 5:24am Steve Boyce wrote:
As was said, we don't do this for the money (and I've never heard of poets having groupies). We start off putting our heart and soul to paper as therapy in many cases, before moving onto the 'Ah ha!' moment of creative writing.

Writing as a novice poet, it would be heartbreaking for many to see their work lifted and published under someone else's name and lauded. I'm lucky that no-one has bothered with my scratching's to my knowledge, but what can novice's do, especially if the word thief is a star of the genre?

On January 19, 2014 at 9:56am zoe wrote:
At university I was doing a short course on how to properly use the library which involved answering a set of questions that were designed to show one the different ways information could be found. I gave a copy of my answers to a girl who was having difficulty so she could check her answers. She didn't just copy them word for word, she handed in my answers with my name still attached!

On January 19, 2014 at 3:58pm JD wrote:
Like Mel, I too noted the gendered politics of plagiarism in your
examples. Do men steal more? Are female writers easier to steal from?
It's probably not as black and white.
Is plagiarism about lazy or unintentional transgression, or is this also
about politics of publishing and access to public voice? I wonder how
this gets complicated across race. So many slave voices were
ventriloquized through their white transcribers.

On January 21, 2014 at 8:10am Bruno Ministro wrote:
Ruth, I disagree. Here you have my point of view:

Paisley Rekdal got two Facebook messages last January from
fellow poets who had some disturbing news: a poet in
England by the name of Christian Ward had taken an old
poem of hers and published it, barely altered, as his own.
Her first reaction was to wonder if it was some kind of
experiment. Perhaps by changing the gender of the author
of a poem about infidelity and infertility, he was teasing
out new meanings?

Then she saw the “new” poem, with its new line breaks and
minor but grating word changes. It was obviously a work of
deception, not conceptual play. “That’s the thing that
enraged me,” she said recently. “If he had just
plagiarized the poem and published under his name, I would
have been less annoyed. When I saw he wanted to take part
in something I had done myself and claim it as his own, I
felt kind of violated.”

Rekdal, who responded to Ward with a righteously angry
blog post (and later a more melancholy one), is not the
only one feeling violated these days. The poetry world
experienced something of a plagiarism epidemic last year.
CJ Allen withdrew from the shortlist of England’s Forward
Prize in September when it was revealed that he had
plagiarized some of his past work. Australian poet Andrew
Slattery was stripped of three prizes when it turned out
he had cribbed from Emily Dickinson and Sylvia Plath,
among others. When caught, he claimed the poems were
written in the cento form, in which each line is pulled
from another source; he also called his work “a cynical
experiment.”

The list goes on: British poet David R. Morgan admitted
last spring that many of his poems, stretching back to at
least the 1980s, had been plagiarized. Rekdal’s
perpetrator turned out to have stolen from several other
poets, including Helen Mort and Sandra Beasley. Graham
Nunn, longtime organizer of a major Australian poetry
festival, was accused last September of at least eight
instances of plagiarism, which he defended in part as
“sampling”; on his blog, he wrote that “[r]eading and
listening to music are a vital part of my process” and
that “parts of the original text are creatively
appropriated in the formation of a new work.” These are
all published, and often prize-winning, poets—they are not
students or amateurs. Why did 2013 become the year of the
plagiarists?

Writing is a dance that involves imitation, inspiration,
and originality. But all things considered, writerly
disapproval of plagiarism has remained remarkably
consistent over the centuries—really, even over millennia.
The Roman poet Martial accused his rival Fidentinus, whom
he called a “miscreant magpie”: “My books need no one to
accuse or judge you: the page which is yours stands up
against you and says, ‘You are a thief.’” Martial was
particularly galled that Fidentinus had mixed in his own
inferior work with Martial’s original material. Yes,
approaches to borrowing and attribution have shifted over
time, but wholesale copying has never been kosher.

T.S. Eliot, who relied on other sources for much of “The
Waste Land” (plagiarism or allusion?), famously wrote,
“Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal.” Less often
quoted is the next line, “Bad poets deface what they
take.” This is what seems to gall many victims of
plagiarists: to see their poems reprinted in weaker
versions than the original.

Ruth Ellen Kocher, a Colorado-based poet and professor,
recently learned that her 2004 poem “Issues Involving
Interpretation” had been plagiarized online by an
Australian named Vuong Pham. Pham kept her line breaks
intact but changed a few words and added some new lines.
“When he stole my work, he didn’t make it better,” Kocher
said. “If my work was going to be taken and pilfered in
that way, I would have loved to see it undergo a
transformation and evolution.” Instead, she said, it
reminded her of a “reverse revision”: his small changes
actually made the poem worse.

Since the 19th century, when the Romantics embraced what
Marilyn Randall, a professor of French studies at the
University of Western Ontario and the author of a 2001
book on literary plagiarism, calls the “authentic poetic
soul,” borrowing has become even more cemented as a
literary crime. (Rekdal refers to her plagiarist as a
Romantic, because “he was trying to tie his own
imagination to the poem and claim it.”) Even in our age of
collage and appropriation and “intertextuality,” it’s only
at the extreme edges of such experimentation that you’ll
find even mild defenses of outright plagiarism.

Despite the fact that plagiarism has always been taboo,
readers are often more forgiving of historical offenses.
As Thomas Mallon puts it in his insightful 1989 book on
plagiarism, “Stolen Words,” “Everyone enjoys a good
scandal in the present…. What we seem far less able to
endure is that plaster cast falling from the library
shelf: Its shattering somehow bothers us more than the
live body going off the cliff.” Samuel Taylor Coleridge,
for example, was an inveterate thief, but he remains
firmly in the canon. Hart Crane borrowed heavily from a
lesser-known poet named Samuel Greenberg, most notably in
his early poem “Emblems of Conduct.” (“No doubt he meant
to acknowledge his debt,” James Laughlin wrote in 1939.
“It simply slipped his mind.”)

More recently, the British conceptual poet Ira Lightman,
who was behind many of last year’s revelations, got
involved simply because he didn’t see anyone else doing
it. “The poetry world is genteel,” he said. “People don’t
like to make any kind of stir.” Lightman has taken it upon
himself to comb through suspect work, alert the victims,
and publicize his findings.

But even Lightman, who spent untold hours last year
ferreting out violators, doesn’t want to banish them
indefinitely. “I don’t see them all as these sinister,
plotting, Machiavellian characters,” he said. “I see it as
a corruption. And we’re all vulnerable to corruption.” He
suggests that transgressors retreat to self-publishing for
a few years, prove themselves honest, and then return to
the fold.

If plagiarists are not sinister and Machiavellian, then
why do they do it? This question gets asked every time
there’s a fresh revelation of plagiarism, whether it’s in
the literary world, journalism, or academia. There’s never
a satisfying answer, but there are at least lots of
guesses, often somewhat at odds with each other: laziness
or panic, narcissism or low self-esteem, ambition or
deliberate self-sabotage.

In poetry, at least, everyone agrees it’s not about the
money. “One of the hardest things is that the stakes in
poetry are not very high,” Kocher said. “I’m not a rocket
scientist. I’m not going to cure cancer with one of my
poems. I don’t get paid an extraordinary amount of money,
and I don’t have any great notoriety outside of the
writing community. So to take something that most people
engage in as an act of joy and sully it this way—it just
seems one of the most egregious offenses.”

But does anyone write just for the money? Laurence Sterne,
the plagiarist author of Tristram Shandy, said he wrote
“not to be fed but to be famous.” Now, of course, he is.
It worked.

The Internet has made both plagiarism itself and its
detection much easier for everyone. But the major cases
that came up in 2013 have all concerned British and
Australian poets, often, but not always, cribbing from
American ones. Despite some speculation that our national
character makes us less likely to plagiarize—Americans are
obsessively respectful of private property! American egos
are too big to rely on other people’s work!—there’s also
the possibility that Americans have simply been lucky
enough to not be caught in the current dragnet.

For one, the primary detective is British, more familiar
with the Commonwealth scene than the American one. And
it’s not as if Americans haven’t been caught in the past.
An Iowa poet named Neal Bowers, a former editor of Poet
and Critic magazine, wrote a 1997 book about tracking down
the Illinois elementary school teacher who published work
copied from Bowers in 13 journals over the course of a few
years. “It’s a very uneasy feeling,” Bowers told the New
York Times at the time, “a bit like having a stalker.”

The gut reactions of the plagiarized are hard to predict.
The poet and essayist H.L. Hix, for example, found out in
October that his work had been lifted by Graham Nunn in an
Australian anthology of love poems. He said his first
reaction to getting the news from Lightman was sheer
surprise: “As a poet one gets used to being completely
ignored.”

Some victims feel moved to reach out the perpetrators.
Kocher sent a note to Pham through Facebook after he
posted a brief apology, which has since been removed, on
his blog. She hasn’t heard back. (Pham has defended
himself by saying he was simply naive and not taught about
proper attribution; he also recently wrote that he has
become a victim of cyberbullying.)

After Paisley Rekdal posted her open letter to Christian
Ward on her blog, she also asked online for an apology
from him. She got one: a one-sentence email that she
recalls as something to the effect of “I’m sorry, I’m not
this kind of person.” It’s the kind of open, vacuous
statement that could make you hate someone, or feel sorry
for them, or both at once. “He gave me what I asked for,”
she said, “but he gave me no more than what I asked for.”

Is there such a thing as a resolution to a plagiarism
story? Plagiarism isn’t a crime, there’s no universally
accepted punishment for it, and the perfect expression of
contrition may never come. Hix, for his part, says he has
no plans to get in touch with Graham Nunn. “These were
love poems that are being stolen,” he said. “I don’t have
any more interest in speaking with Mr. Nunn than I would
with the person who had broken into my house and stolen my
property.”

On January 21, 2014 at 12:44pm Benjamin Robert wrote:
Some distinction should be gently made between plagiarism as a
masturbatory act of self aggrandizement, and plagiarism which
carelessly denigrates the work from which it borrows. The former,
though rather prevalent given this or that young buck's desire for
quick-fix adulation, is merely shameful, but the latter is unforgivable.

It is disappointing that so few publishers are even vaguely aware of
content their competitors are pushing, to the extent that such
intensely choreographed plagiarism makes it to press. A stupendous
example was Shane Jones' Light Boxes, which was little less than a
lacklustre whitewashing of Salvador Plascencia's superb and
profoundly moving People of Paper.

Penguin was too busy promoting Jones as some grand new voice of
originality to notice alarming similarities to Sal's highly celebrated
work published not too long before. That in itself would be predictable
and yet upsetting, but the film contract, heaped praise (the usual
suspects) and subsequent publications Jones has received seem to
have drastically stymied Placensia's aspirations of a second novel. Now
that really is fucking unforgivable.

On January 21, 2014 at 6:40pm James Richardson wrote:
Christian Ward plagiarized one of my poems, too. At first this seemed amusing, puzzling. Then insulting: he used a 1977 book; couldn't he at least have stolen a better poem?

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Authors
 Ruth  Graham

Biography

Ruth Graham is a journalist in New Hampshire.

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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