Poetry and Plagiarism

Posted by Janett Perry on Feb 2, 2010 7:44:00 AM

poetry2 resized 600Poetry is a literary form that depends on unique content.  Poems are distinguished on various levels of theme, verse, form and rhyme, with the end goal of leaving a reader with a message or emotional response to the written language. 

There are several paths a poet can take to success, from publishing their work online to getting picked up by a professional journal or publisher. 

No matter which direction a poet takes, their livelihood depends on maintaining the integrity of their work as their own.  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.

Throughout history, there have been several cases of alleged plagiarism within the realm of the poetic.  Some of these cases range from verses of Shakespeare’s sonnets to T.S Elliot’s landmark piece ‘The Waste Land.’  

Although it is important to look back and learn from these sensational cases, it also can be detrimental to get hung up on them. Finger pointing has occurred, sometimes rightfully so, throughout the literary world for centuries – much of it doesn’t do any good in the end.

Although the integrity of the great historical works must be preserved by attributing them to a specific author, it is the content of today’s working poets that must be protected at all costs.

Now more than ever, this content is at risk due to a growing threat of plagiarism.

Today’s Internet landscape presents both opportunity as well as risk for the poet.  Internet distribution allows a poet’s work to reach a global audience in a split second and gives them the ability to react to current events in near real-time.

For example, in the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake crisis, Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffie mobilized a contingent of poets to write and raise money for the cause through a charity event called ‘Poetry Life for Haiti.’  This poetry served as a visceral and evocative way to raise awareness for the Haitian Crisis, which was amplified by the Internet’s ability to rapidly distribute the content.

Across the Internet there are various other examples of distribution methods for poets to publish their works and let the world see through their eyes, from individual websites and blogs to massive poetry directories. 

However, just as the Internet makes distribution simple, it also makes potential poetry plagiarism that much easier.  A simple ‘copy-and-paste’ tactic can render a poet’s unique work  into an unattributed piece of online content. 

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.

Reputable poetry distributors or publishers with an online presence face another problem with plagiarism.  If the publisher reviews and accepts pieces from a large number of poets, they need to be able to confirm that each poet’s submission is unique.  If a poet is facing a tight deadline (and doesn’t understand the gravity of plagiarism), they could easily clip a verse or full poem from another online source.  

Letting any duplicate poems through the cracks can deplete the reputation of a publication as well as make them susceptible to costly litigation in the future.

For both the the individual freelance poet as well as the poetry publisher, it makes sense to invest in modern plagiarism checker technology.  iThenticate can cross-check poetry with a massive database of both archived as well as live online sources to root out instances of duplicate content.  It is important that modern technology like iThenticate is used to preserve the unique prose of today’s poets.

Citations:

Akbar, Arifa. “Poets Take up Pens in Aid of Haiti”  The Independent 29 Jan. 2010 http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/poets-take-up-pens-in-aid-of-haiti-1882564.html

Topics: Academic




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