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.

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