Spooky Violins: On Discovering Another Poet’s Plagiarism
Electric Literature

I’m an English prof, and I always find myself wondering why kids plagiarize. I mean, most of the time I get it. They do it because: 1. they don’t care about the class, think it is a waste of their time and energy, 2. are stuck and don’t know how to move; 3. They are terrified they won’t be good enough and get the grade they “need” in the class.

Obvs. in a Creative Writing class, it is very different. I imagine that there are almost as many reasons for cheating as there are cheaters. “I don’t want to fail…” is probably near universal. Using the style and language of another author to find your own voice is pretty standard. Lots of people start out writing like the thing that made them want to write. (Or maybe I’m projecting too much, because that’s what I did).

I also get the desire for justice — I think I’d feel that way, too. “Why can’t we tar and feather in the public square? They still do that in places, right?”

I’m always a combination of sad/disappointed and angry when I find plagiarists. The students that make me the most angry are the students whose potential is so big. They probably are terrified of expectations. And I’m not only angry at them — both for doing it, and for not asking me for help. I’m angry at me, too, for somehow missing it.

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