Wednesday, November 28, 2012

T. S. Eliot Quote Regarding Plagiarism

Many people have read a quote attributed to T. S. Eliot that goes as follows:
"Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal."
These words come from an article that Eliot wrote about Philip Massinger. However, it is instructive to read a bit further in the article:
"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."
The last line is particularly relevant as that is exactly the reason I suspected plagiarism on the Fanstory site. Inconsistent writing with glimmers of originality provoked my suspicions, and I found that the glimmers of originality were generally the parts of the poems--or the entire poems--that appeared to be lifted from other sources. The incoherent and weak poems and parts of poems belonged to the poet who did the lifting.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Spotting Plagiarism in Poetry

While doing some research regarding poetry plagiarism, I ran across a post at PlagairismToday called "Case Study: Tracking a Sneaky Plagiarist Poet".

In the post, the author, Jonathan Bailey discusses how he was contacted by an administrator of a writing web  site who suspected that a member had plagiarized one of Mr. Bailey's poems. Mr. Bailey writes about how he went about determining that the poem was plagiarized--although not, apparently, from him--and what resources he recommends for people wishing to do the same. He compares the utility of Google, Copyscape, and Plagium.

 Near the end of the article, Mr. Bailey said something that really resonated with me. He wrote:
[The poem] had all the hallmarks of a plagiarized piece that had been partly rewritten. There were inconsistencies in the language, odd word choices and changes in the language. Where most of the poem seemed to be in very plain tones, some of the passages shifted to a wordy, almost formal tone.
I had someone asked me why I thought to even look for the apparent plagiarism committed by Tammy Gail Behnke. And my answer was similar to the above. I told that person that Ms. Behnke's poems seemed very inconsistent in quality, ranging from a bunch of multi-syllable poetic-sounding words tossed together in an impossible-to-decipher mess to a few that had quite good imagery and metaphors. Her comments on other poets' works were almost always "rah rah" and "loved the emotion, my friend" type responses that demonstrated no knowledge of poetry technique at all. Then one day, she posted a poem that I thought was quite good and, frankly, way beyond her skill level. I was skeptical that the poem could be hers. Thirty seconds with Google and I had my answer.

I recommend that anyone interested in detecting plagiarism on the Internet, whether in poetry or prose, read the entire article. The PlagiarismToday web site also has a great many other articles and news relating to plagiarism and copyright infringement.