Statement Regarding Recent Plagiarism

 

On Friday, US poet Charles O Hartman (current Professor and Poet in Residence at Connecticut College) contacted us to let us know that the poem ‘Dead Wife Singing’, posted on IS&T on 8th April, is virtually identical to ‘A Little Song’ which he wrote more than three decades ago and subsequently published in his collections of 1982 & 2008.

We quickly removed the poem from the site and have also sidelined any further contributions from the plagiarist (who, to his credit, has apologised) after it was revealed that his practice was widespread. We will do the same to any contributor found to have committed extensive plagiarism even if IS&T is not initially affected.

We do not take plagiarism lightly. Actions like this devalue our webzine, hurt the reputation of poetry in general and are an affront to the creative efforts and emotional experiences of the plundered poets. As frustrating as it may be to be at the end of constant rejection slips and emails, please believe that your worst poem is far better than a cut and paste version of someone else’s. And there are any number of residential weeks, courses, surgeries and on-line feedback services (including our own) to help hone your craft.

From now on, we will be conducting random checks on accepted submissions. However, we cannot catch everything and we therefore encourage anyone who suspects that one of our posts may be ‘borrowing’, in whole or in part, to let us know immediately.

Professor Hartman’s original, emphatically superior and quite breathtaking  ‘A Little Song’, can be found in his collection The Pigfoot Rebellion archived in the Contemporary American Poetry Archive (CAPA)

 

Kate Birch Publisher IS&T 

7 comments

  1. ‘…believe that your worst poem is far better than a cut and paste version of someone else’s’. I think that’s a rather odd way of putting it. The poem that has been stolen still has the same value, as a poem. The stealing poet shouldn’t have credit for it, and the practice is despicable, but the poem itself is as good or bad as the original poet made it, surely?

    • James Oxenholme

      Axiomatically, plagiarism is in no one’s interest; not even the culprit’s. That said, this is my reason for writing:

      I wish to reply to Mr S Williams’s comment, which I have thought about in some depth. I think I understand the point Mr Williams makes but, with respect, I think his point might miss that of Ms Birch’s.

      Yes, if someone copies a poem in its entirety and then passes it off as their own, the crime is only in the plagiarism. i.e. the poem per se is not devalued. (Though if it were part of a themed collection, it might have a reduced value in isolation).

      However, as I understand it, Ms Birch is writing of partial copying and pasting. Thus certain phrases which were integral to someone’s poem have been lifted from that context and jig-sawed into a different poem by a different poet. So all the original meaning created by complex intra-poem links is lost.

      Of course, in writing one often uses quotations from other writers – and it might be appropriate to use a phrase from someone else’s poem at a certain point because one feels it really says what one wishes to say brilliantly. However, that is a proper artistic decision and should, in my opinion, always be accompanied by a credit referenced to the original, at the end of the new poem.

      The problem with plagiarism for the new poem is that the writer is simply trying to write to win a prize, sell a collection, impress others or whatever. Jig-sawing phrases in, because one thinks them from impressive poems, means the new poem becomes an artistic travesty: a patchwork where the poet strives to cover the joins – rather than to produce an integral whole, with a fresh meaning to convey.

      So, if one does wish to incorporate others’ phrases, be very sure that is the best way to write something and be doubly-sure full credit is given to the donating piece. Do it sparingly – very sparingly – and never, ever, pretend it is all one’s original work.

      There is such a thing as artistic integrity, let also common decency. If not, why are we bothering?

  2. Pris Campbell

    This type of behavior is outrageous. In the early 2000′s a woman was caught plagiarizing in a number of journals and contests. She just changed her nom de plume and kept doing it until caught again. To me, this type of behavior should result in legal action with a hefty fine, the only real way to stop it.

    And she apologized, too.

  3. Oh, for Christ’s sake!

    In a recombinant culture, plagiarism is productive. One of the main goals of the plagiarist is to restore the dynamic and unstable drift of meaning by appropriating and recombining fragments of culture. Although the laws regarding cultural property may have some useful consequences, most of them are related to greater efficiency of these same laws with repressive costs that excessively tax the creative potential of the general populace. Plagiarism, on the other hand, stands against privileging and sees all ‘objects’ as equal. It favours the new perception or idea brought out by intersecting two or more formally disparate systems; that is, recombination.

    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.
    T.S. Eliot

    The greater the plagiarism, the greater the art.
    C.M. Grieve

    Plagiarism is certainly criminal in a cultural context in which writing is a commodity to be bought and sold. It such a context, the writer certainly has moral and legal rights over the disposal of his or her writing and is perfectly entitled to feel aggrieved when someone ‘carries it away to another place’. And that is the context we have had since the inception of publishing and the subsequent control that publishers have exerted over the dissemination of writing. Prior to that, plagiarism was unknown among storytellers and bards, who merrily lifted portions of other people’s work to incorporate into their own oratura and literatura. And there are strong signs that the liberation of writing from the publishing industry through its free exchange on the internet has returned us to a similar context, in which the ideas of ownership and plagiarism become meaningless. Creative net-surfing reveals plagiarists who plagiarise the plagiarisms of others, to such an extent that the ‘true’ author is lost and the very idea of an author quickly becomes absurd.
    —Ne Aiw: Ekki segja mér að ég hef sagt ekkert nýtt. Fyrirkomulag málið er nýtt (Tórshavn, 2021)

    Creative editing (i.e. plagiarism) can be a middle finger uplifted to a wider problem in British poetry: the dominance of creative writing courses, competitions, workshops, and their cumulative dissemination of a derivative and usually conservative poetic.

    David Shields, in his provocative book Reality Hunger: A Manifesto, argues for a mash-up culture where everything is remixed, appropriated, open source; a culture which has its roots in the Dadaist practice of collage.

  4. Andrew McCallum – I’m honestly not sure if you’re being serious here or not. These recent poetry plagiarism cases are not Eliot-like examples of an author taking a phrase or an idea and using it as a starting point, for inspiration, or to build their own world. They are taking a poem, changing a few words, and passing it off as their own when someone else wrote it. It is theft, pure and simple.

    I’m not clear on why you seem to think that an artist has no right to benefit from and control their own original work.

  5. You weren’t the only one duped – we can’t be expected to check every poem! See Prole’s facebook post dated 22/5/13 https://www.facebook.com/pages/Prole/236155444300?ref=hl

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. All About Poetry » Blog Archive » Another plagiarism scandal hits poetry community - [...] the American poet Charles O Hartman realised Morgan’s poem “Dead Wife Singing” was almost identical to his own, three-decades-old ...
  2. Poetry News Round Up: May 2013 | Some Words - [...] Birch, of the online poetry site Ink, Sweat and Tears, broke the news after being contacted by US poet Charles ...

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