Arts, Culture & Media

This poetry detective tracks down word thieves. But are they all plagiarists?

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Ira Lightman at a poetry reading in Manchester, UK, at an event organized by Poets and Players. Lightman moonlights as a poetry plagiarism detective. 

Ira Lightman at a poetry reading in Manchester, UK, at an event organized by Poets and Players. Lightman moonlights as a poetry plagiarism detective. 

Some people see British poet Ira Lightman as a champion of poets whose verse is being shamelessly ripped off. 

Others view him as a blowhard who delights in ruining other people's reputations. 

His sleuthing methods have caught the attention of several journalists, among them The Guardian's Will Storr and The World in Words podcasters, Leo Hornak and Nina Porzucki. 

Does Ira valiantly defend the original words and ideas of struggling poets? Or is his sleuthing just a way to feed his need for schadenfreude?   

In this episode of the podcast, Leo and Nina do a little sleuthing of their own. In addition to Lightman, they talk with poet Paisley Rekdal, a victim of plagiarism, and self-described plagiarist-poet Kenneth Goldsmith. 

Podcast Contents

01:40 A "fishy" poem.

3:02 "Who is this bloke?"

4:30 Ira's sleuthing methods.

5:45 A late Canadian parliamentary poet laureate's link to Tupac Shakur. 

7:47 "A bit like restoring an old master."

9:34 A poet-victim responds to her plagiarizer. 

12:15 The backlash against Ira. 

13:10 The consequences of being outed as a plagiarist. 

15:00 "I'm not the complete monster that people think I am."

17:05  The most British metaphor ever. 

18:55 Ira responds to the charges against him, and to the metaphor. 

17:10 What is plagiarism?

21:42 "An original act of unoriginal genius."

23:19 "Poets are always looking for ways to get a little bit of attention."

25:10 Sampling/quoting and acknowledgement.

26:03 Is Kenneth Goldsmith really a plagiarist? 

29:20 A plagiarized poem or cultural appropriation?

31:38 It's about who has the power. 

32:50 Nina's plagiarism story.

34:17 Leo's plagiarism story. 

Big thanks to Tina Tobey, who sound-designed this episode, and to Mike Wilkins, the voice of The New York Times. 

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In Arts, Culture & MediaCultureThe World in Words.

Tagged: poetryplagiarismlanguagecultural appropriation.