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Author Topic: Rules for Protesting a Plagiarized Poem in a Slam?  (Read 4735 times)

JacobPoet

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Rules for Protesting a Plagiarized Poem in a Slam?
« on: February 12, 2010, 03:18:54 PM »
I recently participated in a slam where one poet performed a poem that clearly borrowed lines (if not chunks) of another poet's poem.  He made no mention of being influenced by this other poet, and also ended up going on to win the slam.  When does inspiration become plagiarism? Are there ground rules for protesting a plagiarized poem? In my 3 years of slamming I've never run into a situation like this, so I'm not aware if there is a "proper" procedure for handling an event of this nature.

Any and all information is appreciated.

Thanks!

jesster

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Re: Rules for Protesting a Plagiarized Poem in a Slam?
« Reply #1 on: February 12, 2010, 04:19:36 PM »
From an immediate standpoint, the host or bout manager should be informed of this issue. If this is a slam that accumulates points for team selection, the SlamMaster should also be informed. This allows them to follow their own local procedures and resolve this.

-Jesster

WonderDave

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Re: Rules for Protesting a Plagiarized Poem in a Slam?
« Reply #2 on: February 17, 2010, 04:17:18 PM »
I second what Jesse Said. Also Does this slam have a website with a rules section? Look into that and see if there rules specifically address this issue in some way. (i.e. an All poets must perform original work rule). Then Bring it up to your local Slam Master.

jesster

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Re: Rules for Protesting a Plagiarized Poem in a Slam?
« Reply #3 on: February 17, 2010, 11:57:42 PM »
In addition, consider this from page 36 in the PSi Handbook:

Quote from: PSi Handbook
Sampling.
It is acceptable for a poet to incorporate, imitate, or otherwise “signify on”
the words, lyrics, or tune of someone else (commonly called “sampling”) in
his own work. If he is only riffing off another’s words, he should expect only
healthy controversy; if on the other hand, he is ripping off their words, he
should expect scornful contumely.

-Jesster

TSPrunier

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Re: Rules for Protesting a Plagiarized Poem in a Slam?
« Reply #4 on: February 18, 2010, 02:16:17 PM »
In addition, consider this from page 36 in the PSi Handbook:

Quote from: PSi Handbook
Sampling.
It is acceptable for a poet to incorporate, imitate, or otherwise “signify on”
the words, lyrics, or tune of someone else (commonly called “sampling”) in
his own work. If he is only riffing off another’s words, he should expect only
healthy controversy; if on the other hand, he is ripping off their words, he
should expect scornful contumely.

-Jesster


Jesse, I think this is more a question of an "original" poem, which is one of the original three rules. At least based on what JacobPoet wrote in his initial post.

If this was a PSi-registered or -certified slam, and this was a qualifier to make a team, then I think a protest is in order, or at least a talking-to ensuring the poet in question clearly understands the rules. Best to presume innocence.

I was at a non-PSi slam a few years back when a contestant dressed like Kanye West did an acapella version of one of West's songs. Those in the audience "sang" along with him and he did receive a score and finished in second place (no money). No one spoke to him about performing the work of another.

A few months later, I founded a slam venue with rules.

/I know: great story, bro!

weslowski

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Re: Rules for Protesting a Plagiarized Poem in a Slam?
« Reply #5 on: February 18, 2010, 03:53:09 PM »
We recently had a poet perform a poem that was almost solely comprised of sample's from other people's poems.   It was in tribute to the poems that he has heard that had inspired him from both local and out of town poets.

I likened it to those poems that riff on and are built around song titles or song lines or book titles.   We didn't punish him but a couple of non competing poets did ask me if that would be considered plagiarism.   I said it walked the line but it didn't concern me at the time.

But what do you think?
WPS 2007 is in Vancouver.  The Vancouver Poetry Slam happens the 1st, 3rd, 5th Monday of the month.

jesster

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Re: Rules for Protesting a Plagiarized Poem in a Slam?
« Reply #6 on: February 18, 2010, 04:25:24 PM »
In addition, consider this from page 36 in the PSi Handbook:

Quote from: PSi Handbook
Sampling.
It is acceptable for a poet to incorporate, imitate, or otherwise “signify on”
the words, lyrics, or tune of someone else (commonly called “sampling”) in
his own work. If he is only riffing off another’s words, he should expect only
healthy controversy; if on the other hand, he is ripping off their words, he
should expect scornful contumely.

-Jesster


Jesse, I think this is more a question of an "original" poem, which is one of the original three rules. At least based on what JacobPoet wrote in his initial post.

Well... no. The original post talks about lines (or chunks) clearly being borrowed or influenced, not performing someone else's entire piece, which would violate the whole "Each poet must perform work that s/he has created" bit.

I've never seen a hard, fast rule about the percentage of a poem that has to be your work vs. sampling. And surely, we are all influenced by subject matter, style, and voice, so copping to that sort of influence would be harder to call out as plagiarism.

-Jesse

jason carney

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Re: Rules for Protesting a Plagiarized Poem in a Slam?
« Reply #7 on: February 26, 2010, 03:14:53 AM »
as i see it today in slam a lot of this is going on from the finals stage at this years nationals where two different folks participated in this ---to the past several years where this sort of low level art has been recieving false scores and high praise ----if you look close the poets who are tributing will always openly do so or in some cases privately let the other poet nknow but we talk to friends yeah i wrote this poenm about tara hardy's poem and so forth-------i wrote a poemthat is a prayer for oliva fromthe words in this purple hand made book i took on tour with me my first time filled it with womens voices of slam with word to olivia i then got homemixed my words with some of the idea and somedirect queots of the ladies but have always given homage to the when i do it in shows even though the idea of the book and poem was mine i still need to acknowledge the contributions----but in slam we have folkws ripping off peoples ideas--like i coached a guy we went to finals got ass kicked by las rives and the sign language poem next slam season the guy i coacked had a new poemabout sign language---limited poets go for the score cause all they got is the me and center of the stage but that shit is hollow when your craft is comprimised with unoriginal or stolen breath----thank for reading
hy do people always put the most annoying quotes at the end of their messages?

karen_g

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Re: Rules for Protesting a Plagiarized Poem in a Slam?
« Reply #8 on: March 03, 2010, 12:48:35 PM »
This is a sticky subject, especially with our collective consciousnesses at play.To a certain extent, sampling and even performance styles are going to wiggle and move around.We sing parts of songs or use other poems as a jump off point for our own.For songs, we don't pay ASCAP.
However,avoiding accusations is about word choice, and it's so easy to make the right word choices over the wrong ones.Too often, poets borrow whole experiences from other people without credit.When does that become exploitation & when does the other become plagarism? When  we borrow experiences, we should do so with the integrity & assumption that at least one person in the room has been in the borrowed experience.Knowing that, does it change presentation? If we borrow lines, we should assume a person or two in the audience knows the poem being riffed.

We should interrogate our poems with these questions in mind.And not to "police" each other, but definitely call each other out on it.As poets, we should see ourselves being called out on it when we do the calling out---in other words, rather than reacting on the defensive,be able to hear the calling out as criticism of the poem just as we would a line break or a stanza.

When is it plagarism? When the words "inspired by" or "insert borrowed line-quote-author" are absent.When the poem sounds like it wouldn't exist without the original.When a handful or more hear it and conclude that it's too directly "just like" someone else's poem.
nerak_g

JacobPoet

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Re: Rules for Protesting a Plagiarized Poem in a Slam?
« Reply #9 on: March 16, 2010, 11:44:39 PM »
Thanks everyone for all of the responses and information.

Quote
When is it plagarism? When the words "inspired by" or "insert borrowed line-quote-author" are absent. When the poem sounds like it wouldn't exist without the original. When a handful or more hear it and conclude that it's too directly "just like" someone else's poem.

That is exactly how I would describe the poem I heard, and others have agreed that the poem does not simply borrow.  The slam venue where the poet performed at is PSi-certified and, unfortunately, this poet has moved very far along in the running for the venue's national team.  I was also present for the quarterfinal and semifinal this poet performed in (since I had friends competing in both slams) and he has suddenly stopped using this poem; I wouldn't be surprised if this is because he's realized that people know he is plagiarizing.

I freely admit that nothing is original.  We are influenced by other artists and artwork, and I think parody, satire, homage and allusion are all incredible parts of spoken word (and literature in general).  I've been influenced by other poets and have even written poems specifically inspired by the work of other poets, however, I've personally told those poets about these poems AND these poems do not plagiarize their work.  They simply take a collective feeling or phrase, etc.  The poet I'm referring to has attempted to rip (although poorly in my opinion) another poet's entire style (which is evident in much of his work) and in this particular poem, he plagiarizes.

Is it too late for me to do anything considering the passage of time and his ascension through the various slams? I am a firm advocate of intellectual and creative rights, but have I missed my chance? Also, before each slam, the hosts at this venue clearly state that all poems must be "original work. "

jesster

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Re: Rules for Protesting a Plagiarized Poem in a Slam?
« Reply #10 on: March 17, 2010, 10:14:56 AM »
Is it too late for me to do anything considering the passage of time and his ascension through the various slams? I am a firm advocate of intellectual and creative rights, but have I missed my chance? Also, before each slam, the hosts at this venue clearly state that all poems must be "original work. "

That's a decision for the SlamMaster to make. Again, it shouldn't simply be a matter of inspiration. This should be outright stealing of lines written by other people. Writing about the same subject is not plagiarism. Writing in a similar style or voice is not plagiarism. Lifting blocks of words from other people's poetry and claiming them as your own IS plagiarism.

Perhaps at this point, the best approach would be to confront the poet (or inform the SlamMaster) with your concerns and have them not do the poem in question, any more.

-Jesse

Ransacked

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Re: Rules for Protesting a Plagiarized Poem in a Slam?
« Reply #11 on: March 25, 2010, 11:08:41 AM »
I think the presence or absence of deceptive intent matters a lot. If you cite the source ("there's a line in this poem about alarm clocks; it's from Jane Jones"), then you're being honest and you're in the clear. When you use lines from the "Gettysburg Address" or Macbeth, it's reasonable to assume nobody is going to mistake those lines for anything you wrote, so that's okay, too.

If you're borrowing without citation, from works which are not universally known* to your audience, and you're hoping to pick up some momentum from those appropriations, then that's a violation.

Parody, which JacobPoet mentioned and which is my stock-in-trade, is covered by that "intent to deceive" rule because there's no upside to my performing a parody poem for an audience unfamiliar with the original.

My most successful parody to date reimagines Maxwell Kessler's "Legend of John Henry in the Big Bend Tunnel" as a showdown between two larger-than-life musicians, ripping lines left and right from all of Max's (many) paeans to heavy metal. I wrote maybe five of the lines in that poem, but I feel comfortable calling it my own, so long as I perform it at the Cantab, where everyone knows the original poem. Max, for his part, isn't plagiarizing "John Henry" so long as he performs it in the US, where people would recognize the underlying story as a folktale they learned in kindergarten. There'd be no intent to deceive. If Max slammed that poem in Australia, he'd be vulnerable to a plagiarism charge if he didn't let people know he was telling them a traditional American folktale (which I'm sure he would do, as Max is a classy guy).

*"Universally known" can be slippery, of course. I suppose it's possible that a slam judge would think Man, I really like the line in that poem about "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." That line was awesome, so I'll score her a 9.5. It could happen, but I wouldn't fault the poet for having faith in her audience.

TSPrunier

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Re: Rules for Protesting a Plagiarized Poem in a Slam?
« Reply #12 on: March 26, 2010, 01:23:27 PM »
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.

Here's hoping.


* 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.

TSPrunier

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Re: Rules for Protesting a Plagiarized Poem in a Slam?
« Reply #13 on: March 28, 2010, 09:47:19 PM »
Apologies for the scope-creep of my last entry. Either I said it all, or just made all those in the thread back away slowly, collecting all the sharp objects along the way.

And yeah, a lot of this is pent up from the many rants out there about "the future of slam" or "where do we go from here?" and the like. So again, I apologize for what does not belong... but hope some of it is of some use.