This past week the poetry community was shaken by the discovery of a serial plagiarist. Poets and editors around the world worked in unison to remedy the situation. One editor, burdened with the task of removing plagiarized poems from publication and retracting a Pushcart Nomination, wrote that in the aftermath of these events she felt, “defeated.”
Words – strong words – appropriate words – were used to describe the offense and its effects: dismay, distress, identity theft, stolen…
Details of the extensive reach and widespread violations resulting from this episode of serial plagiarism are best left in private conversations – not in public debate. There is actually nothing to debate. Those who know, the witnesses of this disturbing incident, have no questions of right or wrong – only a dismaying confusion of why?
What remains is the puzzlement of what it means to be a poet.
Who and what are we writing for? Our egos? Our CV’s? Our collective humanity? A hobby? The question marks have become infinite.
And that word “defeated.”
We are not defeated. We are an army (even though we did not know we were). Each poet an individual, each publication independent – we were wrong to believe that. The events of this past week did not defeat us – they destroyed our delusions of individualism. The poetry community became more important than the poet.
More importantly, we learned that it had already been that way. Even without thought or discussion, even as we worked for our own successes and publication, somewhere beneath the surface of our own short personal bios, we were helping write the great biography of the global poetry community.
At no point in history has the poetry community been so vastly diverse, intimately connected and had such an instant global reach. The Digital Poetry Era is the richest ever seen. We all take part in growing and guarding this enormous treasure.
At Poetry Breakfast we will continue to publish and honor those who participate in and give their best to the poetry community. We offer thanks to all those who tirelessly worked to defend the integrity of our community this past week and to all those who continue to protect our poets and the art of poetry.
Ann Kestner, Editor
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