It's happened again: new poet unmasked as serial plagiarist
The Guardian has reported on what has been the talk of the online poetry community: that there is a new serial plagiarist in our midst. Following the Christian Ward scandal earlier this year, the new culprit is a poet called David R Morgan, who has admitted to the plagiarism, and told the Guardian he was "so very ashamed and regret hurting people by my stupidity". He said he was "truly sorry to everyone whose thoughts and work I have taken", and vowed to never do it again.
Earlier this week googling Morgan’s name revealed lots of entries, but each click found that the entry had been subsequently been removed as publishers and magazines reacted to the news. His plagiarisms has been revealed by investigations led by the poet and academic Ira Lightman, who earlier assiduously tracked down transgressions by Christian Ward.
Susan Sims at Morgan's publisher Poetry Space said she had suspended sales of both of Morgan’s collections, Beneath the Dreaming Tree and Once Bitten. Armando Halpern, editor of Ariadne’s Thread magazine, which has three David R. Morgan poems in its current issue, said he eventually had to reject all submissions by Morgan after being “bombarded” with poems.
The Guardian points out that the poetry community is now asking itself just how widespread plagiarism is.
“Some plagiarists are unlucky that a lot of books not online have been put into Google Books. One can't read more than a few pages online, so it doesn't render the real book worthless. But all its text can now be checked in Google, if you put in a phrase from a poem you suspect of plagiarism," said Lightman. However, "the difficulty is that Google is all very well, but nobody has an encyclopaedic photographic memory of every poem not online or out-of-print (but still in copyright)".
In a blog in the Ottawa Citizen Canadain poet Colin Morton said: "I was not much upset at being the target of plagiarism, until I read David R Morgan’s prize-winning poem Monkey Stops Whistling. Indeed, 'his' poem is nearly word for word the poem called Empty Bottles that appeared in my first book over 30 years ago. But every change he did make, from the title onward, diminished my poem and betrayed its intention. For my poem is in part a celebration of the community of poets who support and encourage one another, and an illustration of how poems come from other poems.
”The poem found its natural audience – other poets – when it was published in magazines and anthologies around 1980, and when American poet Charles O Hartman offered to put it on his Internet site, the Contemporary American Poetry Archive, I readily agreed. After all, I still want my poem to be read.
"David R Morgan’s plagiarized version of my poem, however, was stripped of any reference, Canadian or otherwise, that made it distinctive. Morgan claimed to have written my poem, but he clearly didn’t understand it or, indeed, poetry itself."