Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Another Plagiarism Scandal: David R Morgan

I'm a bit late to table with this one, but the Guardian has an article about the most recent plagiarism scandal to rock the poetry world:
Publishers and magazines have been working to take down poems and suspend sales of collections by David R Morgan after the American poet Charles O Hartman realised Morgan's poem "Dead Wife Singing" was almost identical to his own, three-decades-old "A Little Song".
Apparently Mr. Morgan both "lifted lines and phrases from a host of different writers" and copied poems wholesale. The plagiarism was discovered and investigated by members of the on-line poetry community. The charge was led by Ira Lightman, a British poet and professor at Northumbria University.

Mr. Morgan has admitted his wrongdoing and apologized:
Morgan has admitted fully to the plagiarism, and told the Guardian he was "so very ashamed and regret hurting people by my stupidity". He said he was "truly sorry to everyone whose thoughts and work I have taken", and vowed to never do it again.
For further reading:

Teleread has an article
iThenticate also has an article (scroll down to #6)

Friday, April 26, 2013

Today is World Intellectual Property Day

Today--April 26--is World Intellectual Property Day. This day was designated by the members of the World Intellectual Property Organization "to promote discussion of the role of intellectual property in encouraging innovation and creativity" and "with the aim of increasing general understanding of IP". I think is a fantastic idea. Poetry--and indeed all forms of creative writing, including essays, novels, scripts, etc.--constitute intellectual property.

The theme for 2013 is "Creativity: The Next Generation". The WIPO site has a great list of suggested activities. One of those activities, which relates to writing and copyright issues, was to "celebrate the works of a notable inventor, artist, designer, entrepreneur, etc.". "Notable writer" and "notable poet" fit well within that list, so I'm going to start a series here on the blog highlighting various poets who have inspired me over the years.

Who inspires you?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

April is National Poetry Month

April is National Poetry Month. National Poetry Month was started by the Academy of American Poets in 1996. In their own words:

"National Poetry Month is a month-long, national celebration of poetry established by the Academy of American Poets. The concept is to widen the attention of individuals and the media—to the art of poetry, to living poets, to our complex poetic heritage, and to poetry books and journals of wide aesthetic range and concern. We hope to increase the visibility and availability of poetry in popular culture while acknowledging and celebrating poetry’s ability to sustain itself in the many places where it is practiced and appreciated."
One of my favorite National Poetry Month activities is NaPoWriMo, which stands for National Poetry Writing Month and is modeled after NaNoWriMo--that's National Novel Writing Month, in case you didn't get it. NaPoWri Mo was started in 2003 by Maureen Thorson. The goal during NaPoWriMo is to write 30 poems in 30 days. They don't have to be good poems, just something down on paper that can be edited later.

I've been doing NaPoWriMo for several years now, and I highly recommend the experience. Although it can be tough to let go of the inner editor that wants every line and image to be JUST PERFECT before letting go of it, the results at the end of the month are glorious. Thirty new poems to play with!

If you post your work on a blog or personal web site, you can add your site to the list of those at the official NaPoWriMo site--just click here and follow the instructions. Bloggers on Wordpress can also add the tag NaPoWriMo to their posts and share their creations. If you have a Wordpress account and just want to read what others have written, navigate to the "Reader" page and enter "Napowrimo" in the search box under Topics.

Or if you're like me, you can just print off the poem and put it in a folder to work on after the end of the month. Happy poetry writing!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Friday Links

Some linkage for your Friday reading pleasure and amusement:

(1) PoetryFoundation.Org has up an interview with Richard Blanco, the United States' fifth inaugural poet. At 44, Mr. Blanco is the youngest inaugural poet, and he is the first openly gay one.

(2) TechDirt has a brief article about a lawsuit filed by Universal Studios against a film company that is making a pornographic version of the book "50 Shades of Gray", which in itself began as fan-fiction. The film company's response is Quixotic and bit baffling, as there are better legal theories to argue in my IANAL opinion. However, the lawsuit may allow the court to address the issues of fan-fiction and derivative vs. transformative works, so it will be interesting to see how it turns out.

(3) This article at contains an update on the U. S. House of Representatives's IP Subcommittee's process in looking at creating essentially a "small claims court" for copyright issues. I wasn't even aware this was in the works until I read this article, but I wholeheartedly support the goal of this process.

(4) Finally, from the WTF Department, we have the case of copyright-troll Prenda Law, who seems to have incurred the wrath of federal judge Otis Wright for their recent actions. Judge Wright has ordered a group of people associated with Prenda Law and their alleged clients to show up in his courtroom on Monday, March 11, 2013, to explain themselves. Ken at Popehat has covered Prenda Law here, here, and here, and ArsTechnica's latest article is here (with links to earlier coverage). The Most-Evasive-Deposition-Ever can be read here if you like that legal stuff . So grab a big cup of coffee and settle in for some entertaining reading.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Q. R. Markham aka Quentin Rowan

"Up over the swell of hot sugar
up over the swell of rubber
Up over the death creaks, rises and falls
like heart attacks
Up over the backyards and bricks
Up over the smell of Ms. Roha's beans..."

So begins Quentin Rowan's poem "Prometheus at Coney Island" which appeared in The Best American Poetry 1996. His poetry has also appeared in Hanging Loose and The Paris Review. But Quentin Rowan uses another name as well: Q. R. Markham.

As Q. R. Markham, he wrote a thriller novel called Assassin of Secrets. The problem? It has been discovered that he copied entire passages of that novel from at least 13 different previously published thrillers.

Author Jeremy Duns appears to have been one of the first to discover the plagiarism and notify the publisher. He has a good write-up here. He says, in part:
"I considered emailing Mr Rowan to ask him what in blue blazes he was thinking, but decided not to waste any more time corresponding with him – it would make no difference what excuse he came up with. The evidence was incontrovertible,..."
Both the New Yorker and the Guardian ran stories about the plagiarism, with varying degrees of castigation. The New Yorker article is rather long and takes a closer look at Rowan the person. It's great reading. The Guardian article talks more about plagiarism in general and the recycling of ideas in literature. It's good reading. This passage in particular was thought-provoking:
"In the virtual world, the most valuable currency is reality. ...the howls are always loudest when it turns out that something presented as genuine turned out to be secondhand or fake."
I'm not sure I agree entirely with this, but it is something I will consider over the next few weeks.

Edited to add: Another great write-up that identifies many of the lifted passages and their sources in great detail can be found here.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Christian Ward Update

[Christian Ward was the subject of a previous post here.]

I've been reading some further news coverage of the Christian Ward plagiarism scandal. A few updates:

(1) As previously noted, Mr. Ward has apparently also admitted to copying a poem by Tim Dooley. Mr. Ward's poem "The Neighbor" is here (scroll down to page 12 at that link). Tim Dooley's poem "After Neruda" is here (click on the "Work" tab).

(2) Helen Mort made a comment on a blog post which I thought should be highlighted. She said:
"Contrary to a few suggestions I've seen online in comments that I should be 'flattered' by this somehow, I'm just bemused and angry. I'd be really interested to talk to whoever is responsible for the plagiarism, Christian Ward or otherwise and find out what on earth the motivation was. This poem was quite a personal one and the idea that someone would deliberately copy it for a competition is something I find really upsetting. I definitely have a few things to say to the plagiarist, though I doubt I'll get the opportunity to do so."
(3) Another quote, this one from Paisley Rekdal about why reading her plagiarized poem upset her:
"I feel angry that you made my poem worse. In this, I admit, my emotions are entirely egotistical, circling around and around the drain of my own self-loathing and self-regard, the particular pains I took over my work to make it sound original and beautiful, the particular disgust with which I am forced to regard it, broken and clunky with your new line breaks, the poem less mine now than some sort of monstrous palimpsest that only limply resembles the sounds of the original. In a way, you have taken my poem from me, from my memory of the pleasure of writing it once, the sounds I imagined and heard when I read it to others or myself. I read every draft I write out loud, Christian, so I can hear the difference in the rhythms that occur if I change even a single word. Because of this, the side effect of my writing process is that I memorize all my work, so that whatever poem I write lingers inside me, like a bell still vibrating after the sound has passed. And now that sense, those sounds, that particular pleasure of making—which is the only reward we ever get in poetry, Christian—is gone."
(4) Finally, I finally read Mr. Ward's entire statement of apology, and I have to say that I find it lacking. Here is the meat of his excuse:
"I was working on a poem about my childhood experiences in Exmoor and was careless. I used Helen Mort’s poem as a model for my own but rushed and ended up submitting a draft that wasn’t entirely my own work. I had no intention of deliberately plagiarising her work."
Sorry, but I'm not buying the "I didn't mean to do it". If he hadn't been outed as having copied from other poets, I might have believed it, but since the extent of his apparent plagiarism has come to light, his statement rings hollow.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Christian Ward and the Hope Bourne Poetry Prize

By now, most people in the poetry world have heard of Christian Ward. Mr. Ward entered a poem called "The Deer at Exmoor" into the Exmoor Society's Hope Bourne Poetry Prize. It won.

The only problem? The poem bears a striking resemblance to a poem called "The Deer", written by Helen Mort. According to an article in The Telegraph:
Mr Ward is believed to have changed only a handful of words from Miss Mort’s poem, replacing “father” for “mother” in the first line, “river Exe” for “Ullapool” in the second verse and changing the reference to a “kingfisher” near Rannoch Moor in Perthshire, Scotland, to a peregrine falcon on Bossington Beach, Exmoor.
The Guardian has a longer article in which Mr. Ward claims that he "had no intention of deliberately plagiarising her work" and that "This incident is all my fault and I fully accept the consequences of my actions."

All I can say is at least he had the guts to own up to what he had done (sort of) and apologize for it (sort of).

But that's not the end of it. According to this blog post, Mr. Ward admitted to plagiarizing a poem from Tim Dooley, and "ANON 6 has just had to take down another poem of his which is almost word-for-word the same as a poem called Bats by the American poet Paisley Rekdal." So that makes three instances of apparent or admitted plagairism and copyright infringement.

Further reading:
Another writer responds (note that I don't condone violence in response to plagiarism)

[Photo courtesy of Photokanok /]

Monday, January 21, 2013

Tammy Gail Behnke: Update #2

[Tammy Gail Behnke was the subject of two previous posts here and here.]

When Ms. Behnke and her husband were members at Fanstory, they talked often about Ms. Behnke's brother-in-law Brian who passed away about 15 years ago. He also wrote poetry, and one of his family members created an account at Fanstory and posted some of Brian's work. On December 14, 2012, Ms. Behnke's husband and his mother published a compilation of Brian's poetry via CreateSpace and Amazon. The book is called, "Request for a Normal Life: A Poet Waits".

Here's the problem. Ms. Behnke posted several of the poems--or portions of the poems-- from that book on Fanstory, claiming they were her own work. Here's what I have found so far:

On July 15, 2011, Ms. Behnke posted a poem called "For Peter Mark Roget". It appears to be identical to Brian's poem of the same name. I did not have a screenshot of Ms. Behnke's poem, so I had to recover the text of it in pieces from the Google cache.

For-Peter-Mark-Roget-by-TammyGail   For-Peter-Mark-Roget-by-Brian

Friday, January 4, 2013

Poetry and Plagiarism Article at iThenticate

I recently found an article called "Poetry and Plagiarism" posted iThenticate. Although the article speaks very generally to the issue of poetry and plagiarism, a couple passages resonated with me, and I wanted to highlight them. First:
If a poet’s work is plagiarized and republished without consent, it not only devalues the poem itself, but also undermines the writer’s vocation and livelihood.
I would argue that even if a poet is an amateur who doesn't have a "vocation and livelihood" that is dependent upon his or her poetry, plagiarism still devalues the poem. A poem comes from the writer's individual and unique experiences and viewpoint, and taking someone else's words--particularly with verbatim copying--co-opts those experience and that viewpoint.
On the Internet, content is king: a potential offender might plagiarize a poem not for its quality but rather to compile it with similarly themed poems and in the end profit from ad revenue based on a keyword or subject.
I think in the cases of amateur poets posting plagiarized poems on poetry web sites, blogs, message boards the motive is not so much profit from ad revenue as it is adulation from other amateur poets. A writer friend of mine once said that there is a hidden (and sometimes not so hidden) egotist in every artist. We want to communicate with others but we also want to be liked and want our work to be liked and appreciated, whether we admit that publicly or not. That sentiment has stuck with me over the years, and I have come to appreciate the inherent truth of it.