January 17, 2013

Poet wins contest …. by copying another poet


Christian Ward and Helen Mort

Poet Christian Ward recently won the Exmoor Society’s Hope Bourne poetry prize, but there’s a problem, as Alison Flood reports in the Guardian:

Organisers later discovered that it [Ward’s poem “The Deer at Exmoor”] was virtually identical to an earlier work by Helen Mort, “Deer”. The similarities were revealed by the Western Morning News last week, with Ward said by the paper to have replaced “only a handful of words”, switching “father” for “mother” in the first line, the “river Exe” for Ullapool and transforming Mort’s description of “the kingfisher / that darned the river south of Rannoch Moor” to a peregrine falcon on Bossington Beach.

Despite the similarity of the two poems — that they are identical minus a few word changes — Ward says he “had no intention of deliberately plagiarising,” explaining that he “used Helen Mort’s poem as a model for my own but rushed and ended up submitting a draft that wasn’t entirely my own work.”

As for the new poem, Helen Mort herself does not approve: “I’d like to tell the plagiarising poet that ‘at the River Exe’ and the peregrine falcon line don’t scan properly within the rhythm of the stanza, in my humble opinion …!”



Kelly Burdick is the executive editor of Melville House.