Another poetry plagiarism scandal

From the Guardian online Poetry section 22nd May 2013, comes this sad story.

“Publishers and magazines have been working to take down poems and suspend sales of collections by David R Morgan after the American poet Charles O Hartman realised Morgan’s poem “Dead Wife Singing” was almost identical to his own, three-decades-old “A Little Song”.

As easy as ‘copy and paste’ makes it to  steal the words of another, the instant and international speed of digital denouncement should be have been a stronger deterrent.  David R Morgan’s career as a poet is probably over and the repercussions will seriously damage his professional life as a writer.  As one star falls so another rises. Helen Ivory, a poet and editor at Ink Sweat and Tears has written some moving words in the Guardian piece including these:

“Poetry is not just words on a page, it is an outward manifestation of, and search for, self and how we feel about the world and everything in it.”

On the basis of this statement alone I will be looking out for more of her work. Here is a link to her web page for starters

Thresholds revisited…

In November last year I posted about Thresholds.  This project placed ten poets in ten Cambridge museums to meet researchers and explore the collections before writing poems inspired by the experience. The project is now complete and a website at contains details including links to the poets reading aloud.

My last few posts have reflected on the performance of poetry. It’s a different experience to listen to the Threshold poets reading from a broad selection of their work, but without the poems to look at – without the words on the page – it feels incomplete. I lose interest quickly. for me, listening is too transient.

The Poetry Archive site offers unique access to the voice and style of dead poets. I can ‘hear’ T S Eliot, Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath. But I also have their words to supplement the poetry process.  One of the images on the current Poetry Archive banner has the text ‘Poetry always begins and ends with listening.’ As Jung might say, this could be an example of ‘meaningful synchronicity.’

Thresholds are about opening doors and stepping through. Perhaps I need to explore my resistance to performance in more detail.

The Temple of Isis on the Island of Philae

Temple of Isis on the Island of Philae in Egypt, 2013.


Writer’s blog

Patty Slappers by Nick TriplawThe afternoon session of the day school was led by Nick Triplow Nick, multi-book author including a number of heritage books based around the Humber fishing industry (eg The Women They Left Behind and Pattie Slappers) is also setter upper of Fathom Press at the Ropewalk, Barton on Humber

The Women They LEft Behind edited by Nick Triplow

Nick’s advice was get a blog, saying an online profile has become essential if you take your words seriously.  He’s right. In a digital society where user-generated content and file-sharing has made web authorship possible, self-promotion is now a component of professional identity. Scary but true. Anyone wanting information about you no longer asks a friend – they go to Google.

Fortunately, this digitisation of daily life and working practice runs both ways. The internet supports a vast range of resources for writers including competitions, funding opportunities and access to small independent publishers not to mention authentic hints and tips on writing, editing and submission. With this in mind, and taking another word of advice from Nick to make your writing website 80% about the work of others, I’ve added a Publisher page to Alphabet Dances.

Nick also talked about the overlap between creative and academic writing. This overlap space is a contentious area and one which intrigues me. My published academic work appears different to my creative writing – on the surface – but underneath the process is strikingly similar – even down to ‘laptop-on-knee’ with ‘feet-on-coffee’ table routine!  The words have the same intention – like the old BBC strapline – to inform, educate and entertain. While writing is fundamentally about words (and of course sharing  – page/stage etc) it’s also self-expression. Academic prose and poetry might be opposite ends of the word spectrum, but both are both essentially creative processes – another excellent reason for developing your own writer’s blog.

Nick Triplaw

More pages, stages…and poets

joe hakimLast Saturday I attended a creative writing day school with Joe Hakim and Mike Watts two Hull performance poets.

mike watts

They talked about the growing popularity of  the spoken word genre and performed. Joe described stage v page as an artificial distinction but later admitted some poems felt unsuitable for reading aloud. This was reassuring. In the current craze for linking person and poem, we need a place for silence.  Poetry is a personal, private activity.  Performance is public.  It says more about the person than the poem.  Open-mic events encourage the poet to package their personality. Words on a page have no vehicle other than the paper. They are fixed, waiting for the connection – for the resonance which lies at the heart of a successful poem. Extrovert stage. Introvert page.

I wonder how much this resurgence of performance poetry is about re-establishing human connection.  The oral tradition was essential for passing on information, long before Gutenberg or the World Wide Web. Today we have access to unlimited amounts of words, music, stories and entertainment. It is reassuring to dim the lights, sit down, have food, drink, friends and bring on the poet who loves the performance as much as the words.

There needs to be room in the world for poetry. A poem can speak about situations, draw attention to issues, give voice to the marginalised.  It can entertain, make you see the world in a different way. All good but while performance poetry is about the moment, we need to remember the words of a poem are for life.

Poetry on page or stage?

Performance poet Kate Tempest (aged 28) is the first person under 40 to win the Ted Hughes award for innovation in poetry for Brand New Ancients, ‘an hour-long spoken story with orchestral backing, in which Tempest imagines a world where we are all gods’ see Kate Tempest: the performance poet who can’t be ignored for more details.

Kate’s work arouses mixed feelings, or maybe it’s the status of winning of the award which has caused such strong reactions. The piece in the Guardian (and its comments) reflects some of this diversity. Performance poetry has never gone away but seems to be enjoying a resurgence of interest; the difference between the poem on the page and the poem on the stage can be remarkable. If Kate succeeds in engaging more people in poetic practice it can only be good. Kate is well named!

A trailer for Brand New Ancients can be seen here with lots of other examples of Kate’s work on the same link.