Saturday, May 23, 2015

Borrowing, Honoring. Stealing.

 "Inappropriate borrowing."

This is a horrifying story.  The poet, Sheree Mack, apologizes for "inappropriate borrowing."

I am most sad for the publisher. It was courageous of them--if misguided--to stand behind their author for so long. I really do admire the press, but I'm also horrified: there are some things that should not be overlooked, should not be excused, should not be forgiven.

She says that the borrowing is unintentional.  This is possibly every poet's nightmare, inadvertently incorporating a half-remembered fragment into a poem, or looking at a piece of paper with scribbled notes in your own handwriting that you don't remember writing, and saying "that's a great line, I'm glad I wrote it down."

drawing of a burglerIt was an awful amount of borrowing: hard to believe so much could be unintentional.  But maybe it was indeed unintentional, as she says. I have no way to know. But our words and our ideas and the way we put these words together are all that authors have, and we cannot just let others take them as their own, without permission and without credit.

The plagarist takes something essential to an author (their ideas, and the ways in which those ideas are presented) and cuts them to pieces that they suture together with rough-twine connective-tissue and allow to slouch into half-life like a less eloquent version of Frankenstein’s Creature.
When I read what she said, I found it compelling, and thought how easily this could accidentally happen.  But... I found her explanation strained credulity

 Sheree Mack is not the first, just the most recent. What I find somewhat more disturbing is the reaction of some of the poets-- and the publisher-- to attack the person who uncovered the plagiarism.  Ira Lightman should be commended for his meticulous work in finding and annotating plagiarims-- not attacked.

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The poet doesn't invent. He listens. ~Jean Cocteau