A Canadian poet laureate who has been celebrated for his craft is now being exposed for alleged plagiarism.
Ira Lightman, a poet who detailed his discovery in The Guardian Saturday, Sept. 9, hurled the accusation. While perusing Facebook one day, Lightman came across a page where a group member said Pierre Desruisseaux, who died in 2016, plagiarized Maya Angelou.
A link to the Parliament of Canada’s website credited Desruisseaux’s French translation of Angelou’s “Still I Rise” as the original. However, the late Black feminist’s poem has been celebrated for decades.
“You can wipe me from the pages of history/with your twisted falsehoods/you can drag me through the mud/but like the wind, I rise.” Desruisseaux’s poem, titled “Rise,” reads upon translation from French.
Lightman then reviewed Angelou’s 1978 poem.
“You may write me down in history/With your bitter, twisted lies/You may trod me in the very dirt/But still, like dust, I’ll rise.”
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Remarkably, Lightman’s alleged plagiarism had gone unnoticed because of its French translations. But Angelou wasn’t the only victim. Lightman reviewed several works by Desruisseaux and discovered he had also seemed to plagiarize Spanish poet Federico García Lorca and Tupac Shakur, to name a few.
“Sometimes, when I’m alone/I cry because I’m on my own,” Tupac wrote in his poem, “Sometimes I Cry.” “The tears I cry are bitter and warm/They flow with life but take no form.”
Desruisseaux’s “When I’m Alone” is stunningly similar.
“Sometimes when I’m alone I cry/Because I’m alone,” it said. “The tears I cry are bitter and burning/They flow with life, they do not need reason.”
Both poems were published in Desruisseaux’s “Tranches de Vie,” which Radio-Canada reported is no longer for sale.
Think Desruisseaux should still be celebrated?