Jesse, you were right from earlier, when I alluded to plagiarism when it was really 'heavily borrowed or influenced.'
And since Jason mentioned the incident from this past NPS Finals stage that I'm uncomfortably close to (No, I wasn't on Finals stage, but the argument/discussion itself), I have been involved in exhaustive talks about what constitutes signifying-on, sampling and out-and-out theft.
I recently had to defend a mediocre poet/horrible human being who took the opening line of a well-known poem and used it as the "chorus" of one of his signature pieces. The fact remains that side-by-side, the 18-line poem he used as inspiration and the performance script (nee poem) he composed using the opening stanza from a poem again and again are different expressions (genres, even) that go in different directions.
Unfortunately, Mr. Mediocre/Horrible* does have a bad habit of drawing inspiration from wells a little too close to home, and has approached the boundary of plagiarism with many of our local poets/poems. To his credit, he is a great salesman - er, performer - and does a great job indeed make these appear to be his own thoughts.
That bozo reminds me of the person Jacob described here. It is going to happen because of the randominity** of a poetry slam - and the people drawn to compete in one - which allows noobs to swim in the same waters as experienced performance poets who hold their art form close with great reverence.
And this dialogue is one being echoed across Facebook (most notably Alvin Lau's diatribe that, once you get past his sour grapes, makes some incredibly valid points), where incumbents and experienced spoken word artists with slam on their resume have taken issue with this new generation of competitors who emulate the style - and sometimes the writing - of those who have historically been successful in slam. This is largely from those iPhoning it in - that is researching poetry slam performances on YouTube and imitating what they see because that's how they feel it is done. Think of every Saul Williams clone circa 1997-2004. This current mass-emulation threatens to kill the originality and spontaneity of slam - but also makes those who seek to find their own voices - like this 14-year-old in a recent slam - look so much better than many veterans.
The 14-year-old lost a slam-off by time penalty. Upon hearing his age, the thirtysomething slam winner shook his head in disbelief. And while the winner of the slam is an acquaintance whom I respect, I honestly couldn't distinguished any of the three poems he did from one another, as they all stayed safely within a narrow set of subjects with the same 10 or 12 tropes/talking points, while this barely-a-teenager channeled Alan Ginsberg and Tony Robbins (you had to be there).
I end on that anecdote because the kid is a source of inspiration in a movement that teeters on the brink of implosion from all the hating and rapid turnover, and a reminder of the responsibility we have as experienced performance poets to educate as much as we advocate...
... if your local slam doesn't have one, start a workshop. Features can often lead them. If you don't have features regularly, scour the Internet for prompts and grassroot the sucker into existence. Get 'em writing. And editing. Show them that slam is merely a gateway drug to a much more worthy dragon to chase (sorry for the choice in metaphor); don't bitch on Facebook or LiveJournal when you "lose" a slam to someone you don't feel is worthy.
But also call out those suckas who either lack the originality or try to "win" a poetry slam by borrowing heavily, stealing large chunks or better lines than they could write on their own, or out-and-out plagiarizing other poets.
Jacob, call him out. If you don't want to whistle-blow, tell him to his face that you feel what he did was wrong. Sounds like there are a few people on this thread (myself included) that would back you up if what you're saying did indeed transpire. Sounds like he also learned his lesson and might shy away from his past mistakes.
* Not to be confused with Dr. Horrible - this individual has neither a Ph.D. nor musical ability.
** Yeah, I made up a word. What? You gotta problem with that? You know what I meant by it.