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Saturday, April 28, 2012

Plagued by Plagiarism

Okay, plagued is too strong a word as it's just a single case, and with the hard 'g' in plagued and the soft 'g' in plagiarism, the alliteration doesn't even work well enough to overcome this objection. But it's the best I can do today.

So yesterday I get a lovely email from a reader who had found my work in a journal and had looked me up online to read more of my poems. Which is an extremely pleasant thing to happen. And the comments from the reader are so encouraging. At the end of the email, he tells me that by the way, a poem of mine has been published under another name at a certain journal, and perhaps it's a pseudonym of mine, but just in case he thought he'd just let me know. He gives me the link.

I click on the link, and there's my poem, every word of it, credited to someone else. A year after it originally appeared under my name in a prominent journal (and after it appeared in an anthology and on Verse Daily, but before it came out in my book). So I write the journal to let them know and they very promptly write back to apologize and suggest a course of action to rectify the situation, one acceptable to me.

In the meantime, I start to worry about this same person using this poem or perhaps another of mine elsewhere. So I do an internet search for her. And here's what I find: she was an undergraduate at the time of the publication at the school that the journal hails from, and within months of publishing my poem under her name, she was in a traffic accident and died. This immediately causes me to feel conflicted--don't want to disparage the dead and all that, despite the fact that I am feeling quite violated. Well, let's just say I'm glad I contacted the journal previous to having this information. It's all just too depressing.

11 comments:

Perogyo said...

Oh. I was all about to offer many suggestions for revenge but now...

I'm sorry this happened to you. But it is kind of amazing that you are so good that someone would want to steal from you. Kind of!

Kristin said...

The plagiarist died in a car accident?!!! Astonishing twist.

I always wonder about people who pull the kind of stunt the plagiarist did. Why do they do it? Some pathology? Desperation to be published?

Thanks for sharing your experience.

Jessica Goodfellow said...

Actually it was some kind of sports vehicle accident, like off-roading or an ATV accident or something like that. Not sure of the details. And I really feel sorry for the editors of the journal because they apparently knew this student personally, enough to announce her death in the journal and dedicate a page to her, featuring a poem of hers, or one presumably of hers (now one wonders, but that goodness that page didn't have one of my poems on it!). So this must be worse for them than for me. They didn't mention a thing about these circumstances though; just apologized and suggested a plan which will be run past the powers that be over there, and then they'll get in touch with me again.

It's like the beginning of a short story or something, don't you think? But so sad.

Shawnte Orion said...

That is amazing. I wouldn't expect anyone to try to pull that off in this day of google searchability.

I remember being told that one of my relatives passed off a poem from my Red Booth Review chapbook, as one of theirs for a school assignment.

But I also remember being told by another poet that no one would ever bother stealing poetry, because there is nothing as worthless as a poem.

Jessica Goodfellow said...

You know what, Shawnte, I originally published the poem in 2006, it was plagiarized in 2007, and it was 2112 before I found out, and it was somebody else who stumbled on it by accident. So...

It's true that poems don't have any monetary value, but that's not why people steal them, I guess...

Shawnte Orion said...

I hope you didn't think my amazement stemmed from skepticism. I didn't doubt anything about your timeline...it's just so bizarre. It sounds like a made-for-television movie.

Jessica Goodfellow said...

Not to worry, Shawnte, I understood. It's completely unreal to me too.

Jessica Goodfellow said...

And I edited my previous comment to you. After So.... I had written, "Doesn't it make you wonder about all your poems out there?" But I deleted that because I didn't want to make anyone paranoid, and I don't want to get paranoid myself. But that's what I had meant by So....., not that I felt factually challenged by your comments.

Mari said...

Jessica, I stopped by on a whim to find your post. Oh my goodness...!!! I've not read the comments yet, but, wow... such a knot to untangle.

Mari said...

It's bad enough that someone would plagiarize your poem (such a violation!), but your story also makes me think about poets who make false claims about their publications, prizes, etc. in bios and CVs. I doubt it happens frequently, but it happens (as an editor, I sometimes do spot checks). It's sad to me that some individuals feel the need to go to that extent to be acknowledged/seen, and probably says a lot, too, about what the poetry/publishing world has become.

Anyway... what a story, Jessica. Life...!

Jessica Goodfellow said...

I know, Mari, it's such a bizarre story. The bizarreness of it (the bizzarity?) actually makes it slightly more palatable. At least it's a good story.