n 1: a piece of writing that has been copied from someone else and is presented as being your own work 2: the act of plagiarizing; taking someone's words or ideas as if they were your own [syn: plagiarization, plagiarisation, piracy]
Source: WordNet ® 2.0, © 2003 Princeton University
In my time on the 'net', I've experienced two instances of my poetry being plagiarized. The first was a few years ago when an AP High School English teacher emailed me about a sestina her student had handed in as her own work. It was mine, lifted from my poetry website and turned in as is, substituting the student's name as the author.
I remember being angry and hurt. The student penned a brief email apology that felt forced and completely insincere. It seemed to me as if she were more sorry for being discovered than for the act of theft.
And make no mistake--this was an act of theft. While I experienced no financial loss, I still felt an acute sense of betrayal.
Last night, I discovered a far more insidious brand of plagiarism. I was reading poetry on a critique board when I came across a poem whose structure, language, and imagery felt as familiar to me as my own face in a mirror.
My words, ever so slightly changed, twisted out of two of my poems and presented as someone else's work.
Yes, they are only words, but they are also my soul, expressed in the language of poetry. It is as if a piece of myself has been taken from me. I am particularly upset about one of the poems: "Lilacs for One Hundred Springs" was written for my grandmother the year before she died. (and published in Stirring) The images I had worked so hard to perfect were chopped up and inserted into another poem with just enough changes that googling key phrases wouldn't pick it up.
Underneath my anger is also sadness. Does this poet think so little of herself and her ability that she must steal and publicly proclaim the stolen words as her own?
Will she claim that my poems were simply sources of inspiration?
Certainly we 'riff' off one another's work. (as in a jazz riff, not rip off!) Many of my fellow poets have inspired me to write my own poems in homage to their work. The difference is I reference the author and the poem. If I use a phrase or a line, I reference the line, I present it as a quote.
And what do I do? She has this poem on her blog. She has a net presence and has had her work published on net based poetry journals.
Is it my responsibility to 'out' her? Do I demand an apology? I am not by nature a confrontative person. I do not stay angry and I do not hold grudges. But to let this go also feels wrong.
I'm sure I will post more on this in the coming days and weeks.