It is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but how far can a poet go in using another poet’s lines in their own creations? We all know there is straightforward plagiarism: poems entered into competitions (and even to magazines) taken from obscure publications — and sometimes not so obscure. The web, of course, makes this easier to do in one sense as it often makes it easier to check in another. I’ve even found poems entered into an under-15 competition, which sounded too sophisticated for the age group, were by other writers when the lines were checked on google.
Then there are poems entitled ‘After …’ naming a poem by a contemporary poet, with or without that poet’s permission. In many cases these are sincere lines of admiration and the references in the second poem are openly acknowledged. But these can cause trouble if the original poet hasn’t given permission, no matter how sincere (or otherwise).
But how about a poet who is sincerely inspired by a poem to either use the structure, the story, the ideas in a poem of their own? Quite often the second poem falls flat on its borrowed face. But occasionally a poem will stand scrutiny as a tribute to the original. For example, the many tributes to ‘Adelstrop’ which take nothing away from the original poem and are well-crafted poems in their own right; or the many poems, called ‘The Naming of Parts’; or, in the past all the poems which began ‘Come live with me and be my love …’!
Two guest poems this week (now in archive: ‘A Brief Preulude…’and ‘Three Incarnations’) I believe stand in their own right. One poem has taken a storyline and extended it. The other has taken the theme and ideas from three poems to make her own poem which is an original creation. I’m interested in any comments on these: serious comments will be published on the website.