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.