The late poet laureate wasn't exactly discreet
Former Canadian poet Laureate Pierre DesRuisseaux is being accused of lifting some of his poems from some huge names. The late poet was found to have lifted passages in his French language poetry collection Tranches de vie, but he didn’t seek out source material from anonymous poets. Some of his thefts come from incredibly well-known poems from writers like Maya Angelou and Tupac.
In fact, the poem “J’Avance” snatches from arguably Angelou’s most famous poem. See if you recognize it: “You can wipe me from the pages of history/with your twisted falsehoods/you can drag me through the mud/but like the wind, I rise,” he wrote.
Obviously, that bears a strong resemblance to “Still I Rise.” It’s almost a direct translation. Check out the original: “You may write me down in history/With your bitter, twisted lies/You may trod me in the very dirt/But still, like dust, I’ll rise.”
This poem was the one that perked up the ears of Kathy Figueroa, who read an English translation of the poem on a Canadian government website and recognized the plagiarism right away. “I recognized it immediately and just sort of went into shock. I couldn’t believe it,” she told The National Post. “It was obvious that he ripped her off. It was blatant, it was obvious, it was appalling.”
She passed the story on to a plagiarism Facebook group and Ira Lightman took over from there, finding that 30 of the book’s poems could be stolen. Lightman said that it’s a common practice of plagiarists to take artists from other countries who might speak other languages so that the audience in the new country will not be as familiar with the work.
“When you get an English plagiarist, they tend to borrow from an American poet,” while an Australian might steal from a Canadian,” he said in an interview with the Post. “They’re taking from another country and their target audience… has not read it.”
“It’s sleazy, you know?” Figueroa said. “It just boggles the mind that this fellow was so arrogant, so sure of himself that he thought he could get away with it.”
The Poem In Question
Take a look at Tupac Shakur’s “Sometimes I Cry” up against an English translation of DesRuisseaux below:
Sometimes I Cry By: Tupac
Sometimes when I’m alone
I cry because I’m on my own
The tears I cry are bitter and warm
They flow with life but take no form
When I’m Alone By: DesRuisseaux
Sometimes when I’m alone I cry
Because I’m alone.
The tears I cry are bitter and burning.
They flow with life, they do not need reason.
According to Lightman, the poet was not a serial plagiarist; this book appears to be the only time he engaged in the project so blatantly, which makes it all the more confusing.
What do you think? Why would a poet laureate lift from other people? And why would he be so obvious about it? Should the publishers have caught on well before the book was put into the world? Let us know in the comments and don’t forget to SHARE this article.