CONFLICTING VIEWS ON PLAGIARISM
(Portrait of Lord Byron by Richard Westall.)
THE DEBATE over plagiarism which kicked off with the Ailey O’Toole revelations rages on. The latest: fledgling poet Claudia Cortese having aspects and wordings of her work apparently borrowed by poet Lisa Low in the journal Quarterly West.
EXPRESSED by different sides have been opposing viewpoints regarding questions of fair use, intellectual property, and the like.
At one pole, the online literary site Soft Cartel:
(Anything goes? The individual lost in the mob?)
AT the other pole might be members of the Poetry Cops, who’ve taken it upon themselves to eliminate writings and blackball other writers and journals to the fullest extent possible. A sample opinion:
Note the apologizing and “enduring punishment” part of the tweet– hallmarks of the would-be totalitarian.
Where do we at New Pop Lit stand? I have a track record for speaking out publicly against plagiarism, dating back to 2005. I took a great deal of heat at the time from powerful literary personages for doing so. I leave it now to others to discuss the legal/philosophical aspects of the matter.
THE QUESTION I want to ask here is: Why does someone plagiarize?
The answer back in 2005, for the essayist involved, was pure laziness. The individual was writing long essays for a variety of high-profile magazines, making good money in doing so, and from lethargy, or ineptness, took as many shortcuts as possible.
What about today’s poetry borrowings?
The only excuse for doing it at all– having another poet’s work in front of you as you construct your own– is apprenticeship. Learning the craft. Even in that instance, one would expect the apprentice poet to A.) Use one of the acknowledged best at the game as model; a T.S. Eliot or Sylvia Plath. B.) Never, never submit those practice poems to a literary journal for publication.
Which is where intent comes into consideration. The only reason to copy an unknown poet’s work, who moreover writes in the current fashion, is in an effort to be published.
These thoughts merely my own viewpoint. . . .
p.s. Lord Byron was involved in a plagiarism scandal over a novel fragment which may or may not have been plagiarized by another writer.
-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS