Poetry News

The Guardian Tracks as Plagiarism Accusations Build

By Harriet Staff

Alison Flood observes mounting accusations against poet Ailey O'Toole, whose poem, "Gun Metal," bears a notable similarity to Rachel McKibbens's poem, "three strikes." At The Guardian, Flood begins, "A prize-nominated poet’s debut collection has been cancelled and her work removed from online publications after multiple writers accused her of plagiarising their work." From there: 

On Saturday, Ailey O’Toole, an American poet who was nominated for a Pushcart prize for the poem Gun Metal, was publicly accused by Rachel McKibbens of taking lines from her poem, three strikes, and using them in Gun Metal. McKibbens’ poem, which draws on her childhood trauma, reads: “Hell-spangled girl / spitting teeth into the sink, / I’d trace the broken / landscape of my body / & find God / within myself.” O’Toole’s Gun Metal reads: “Ramshackle / girl spitting teeth / in the sink. I trace the / foreign topography of / my body, find God / in my skin.”​

McKibbens said she was contacted by O’Toole that day to inform her that she had “paraphrased a stanza” from three strikes and that, “over time, the origin of the stanza slipped my mind … I hope you can understand it was not my intention to pass your work off as my own and I am deeply ashamed of this mistake.”

McKibbens wrote on Twitter that she did not accept the apology, pointing to how in an interview with the Rumpus O’Toole had called these specific lines “the best representation” of her writing and had the lines tattooed on her arm.

“Who are we, if not our words? Who are we if we are not allowed to tell our own stories? I survived my own vanishing. I arrive in my art. That is where I map my forgiveness, my sorrow, my joys. Let it be mine. Don’t change a single word of it,” McKibbens wrote, also identifying similarities between O’Toole’s poem Coping Mechanisms and her own 2011 work, letter from my heart to my brain.

Read more at The Guardian.

Originally Published: December 7th, 2018