Plagiarism is a hot topic in any creative business as, after all, it is technically stealing another person’s work. While imitation is the highest form of flattery, it doesn’t work all the time. Poet Laureate Pierre DesRuisseaux has been hit with flak after fans of Tupac Shakur said the Canadian Laureate may have stolen Tupac’s work.
This is courtesy of Ira Lightman, a poetry “detective” and British writer, who said the book Tranches de vie by DesRuisseaux has poems that very much resembles the work of artists such as Louis MacNeice, Dylan Thomas, and rapper Tupac Shakur.
When Lightman said someone might be plagiarising, his words aren’t to be taken lightly. After all, Lightman did manage to expose poets who’ve plagiarised at the time. The list may include DesRuisseaux who, according to Lightman, may have written the works in French, and was thus available to readers that might not be familiar with the source.
DesRuisseaux has just passed away last year in January. The poet was born in Quebec and took philosophy at the University of Montreal. Among the honors he won prior to being the N[obel Laureate was the Governer General’s Award, which he received for French poetry in 1989.
As per National Post, among the first to discover the uncanny resemblance of DesRuisseaux’s work with others’ is Kathy Figueroa, a poet based in Ontario, Canada. She was then looking for information on George Elliot Clarke, now Canada’s current laureate, when she was a translation of DesRuisseaux’s J’avance. She immediately thought it was Maya Angelou’s Still I Rise.
Figueroa added she connected with the Canadian Library of Parliament, where she found the translation, and it was quickly removed. She then posted her story on the “Plagiarism Alerts” group in Facebook, and Lightman took it from there.
As per the Guardian, Lightman scoured through every poem that was written in Tranches de vie, and translated notable pieces.
What popped out were outstanding: these verses are in fact very slight alterations on pieces such as “There was When I’m Alone,” which bore striking resemblance to Tupac’s “Sometimes I Cry.” There was also “In the Beginning,” where Lightman discovered yet another resemblance to “In the Beginning” by Dylan Thomas. They were just the few.
Regardless, Lightman said DesRuisseaux didn’t seem like a serial plagiarist, or someone who plagiarises all the time. The poet still, after all, had good pieces. Unfortunately, DesRuisseaux is no longer here to be interviewed on the issue.
Meanwhile, Thierry Bissonnette of Laurentian University said it may be possible for the late poet to be “playing a joke.” Bissonnette, who’s become familiar with DesRuisseaux’s pieces, said that as a translator, DesRuisseaux would have been aware of the dangers of plagiarising other writers.
Lightman didn’t immediately go public with the issue, however, as he said he didn’t want to upset the late poet’s family just months after he passed away. He did however share his sentiments when he was contacted by the U.K. based paper The Guardian, which was linked above.