Thursday, October 16, 2008

Laughing, Spinning Changing Lies



I just received an email helpfully pointing me at several websites on which strangers have reposted all or part of my poem "...And All Ye Need To Know" a.k.a. Pilate's Answer. Here is what I wrote to the first of the websites:

The poem at the following link is the middle two thirds of my poem And All Ye Need To Know, which I first wrote circa 1974 and posted on one of my blogs on March 28, 2005, the same day my poem was broadcast on the Tucson community radio station KXCI.

My posting:
http://journals.aol.com/mavarin/MusingsfromMavarin/entries/2005/03/28/radio-radio-right-now/1658

The plagiarized one:
http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/an-ear-between-two-whispered-words-published/

and

www.poemhunter.com/best-poems/wilfred-john/an-ear-between-two-whispered-words-published/

Notice that the one on your site chooses a title that doesn't quite appear in the truncated poem, and that the shortened opening stanza doesn't match the meter of the rest of the poem (or make much sense). The plagiarist also posted an even more garbled version on another site, one that makes so little sense that I wonder whether English is a second language to him or her.

Please remove this stolen work from your site. I have been advised that this "Wilfred John" has plagiarized many other works. You really should look into that.

Regards,
Karen Funk Blocher

The "even more garbled version" of the poem is here:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/3899534/WILFRED-JOHNS-SELECTED-POETRY

Scroll down, a lot, and you find a version that almost reduces the poem to word salad, rearranging individual lines in ways that don't make sense.

Can I prove that it's my poem? With a little time and effort, I can probably come up with a typed copy from high school (1974 or 1975) or my Syracuse University days (1975-1979). The last modified date on my current computer is in 2004, but I can probably find an older copy on my iMac, my first laptop or an old CD or floppy. Beyond that, I can explain in detail what the poem is about. I doubt that "Wilfred John" can.

The email I received lists more illicit repostings of my poem by Wilfred John:


and one by "Samuel L Jack": http://www.poetry.com/dotnet/P7820473/999/1/display.aspx

Does Jack = John? Are there more copies floating around? And if I look for a copy of my poem The Burial, about the death of Jenny Dog, will I find that too? How am I to root out all this theft of my work?

And how can I possibly go to sleep right now, after staying up all night reading about the Presidential debate?

Here is the complete poem. You will notice that it's very long by modern standards, 44 lines. This makes it ineligible for most poetry contests, which explains why the plagiarist(s) did not post it in full:

Pilate’s Answer:

“...And All Ye Need to Know”

by Karen Funk Blocher


And when they thought they needed him

For all men's grand and trivial schemes,

They hunted, leaving women home

To watch him dancing at their doors.

The men would sometimes find him, too:

An ear between two whispered words,

A hand in dying, dancing flames,

An eye that blinked in time with stars.


Soon or late, they thought they spied

An ancient foot between two growls,

And grabbing by a withered toe

They dragged him to the stadium.


In the center was a stage,

That they from every angle might

Survey and study ageless flesh:

Now young, now old, forever strange.


And one by one they came to coax,

To scream, negotiate, threaten, bribe...

While he stood smiling, mocking all,

His mouth forever smiling, shut.


And much would some of them endure

Just to glimpse his shadowed face.

They sat on nails. They cut off ears.

They starved alone among the rats.


Then many, failing, came outside

To claim that they had heard his voice,

And used his name to justify

Their good, and bad, and mad ideas.


Others, quiet in their chairs

Would paint him 'til their hands were dust,

In somber blues, in burning reds,

In glorious fluorescent tones.


A child, a sphinx, a laurel crown,

A junkie, shepherd, quiet pond

They saw in him, and in his hand

A flower, pitchfork, candle, sword.


Each night the thwarted pilgrims left,

Some early, others staying 'til

Their eyelids pressed on reddened eyes

And legs could scarcely stagger off.


And finally, when all had gone,

Truth left the stage, invading dreams

And laughing, spinning changing lies

For men to follow, blindly grateful.


Update: Julie pointed me at an anti-plagiarism site, http://www.plagiarismtoday.com/. Using something called Copyscape, I discovered that I posted an earlier edit of the poem to a Madeleine L'Engle fan community (Bonastra) in 1997:

http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Acropolis/8838/aug2/msg00045.html


This explains why the plagiarist chose 1997 as a copyright date.

The poemhunter site is apparently feeding the poem to an ecard generator as well:

http://completeclassics.com/ecard/1/prepare.asp?poem=10366861


My original correspondent has emailed me back with further info on the plagiarist. The guy is in India, and claims his niece has been reposting his favorite poems under his name. He promised to remove any that weren't his own work (which is all of them), but obviously he has not. My contact notes that even his comments to other people's poems are plagiarized.

I tried to contact scribd.com and got a mailer daemon. I also tried to contact completeclassics.com. That didn't work either. Poetry.com is a scam site to begin with, and doesn't provide an email address on its contact page.

Gee, this is frustrating! But I checked a few of my other poems out, and they apparently haven't been copied. I don't know whether that's due to the age and obscurity of the 1997 posting versus my more recent ones, or an indication that of all the poems I've ever written and posted online, only one was worth ripping off.

Karen

4 comments:

barrettmanor said...

Please report it to Poetry.com ASAP. I'll send you more details offline.

poems-songs-short-stories said...

Dana Hobart kindly notified me that the creep had been plagiarising me (and apparently many other people). I've notified google (they have awesome powers to eliminate both the plagiarist and sites that are slack about allowing it).

I've written a poem FOR Mr. Plagiarist

enjoy :)

Pete

MyMaracas said...

It would indeed be infuriating to find someone stealing your work like that. I have wondered from time to time whether posting work on the internet was worth the risk of being ripped off. I'm sorry it happened to you.

By the way, I've tagged you for a meme, if you want to do one. It's here: http://mymaracas.blogspot.com/2008/10/seven-things.html

Anonymous said...

Joe Scogin;
what I fail to understand is why Wilfred John is active. In 1997 an international law was passed putting severe penalties for those who commit plagiarism/copyright infringement. With all the publicity of this idiot's crime, why hasn't anything permanent been done to put a stop to these actions??