October 6th, 2010 / 11:33 am

pla(y)giarism versus plagiarism

Consider these two texts. The first was published on 28 June 2010 at Everyday Genius, the second was published yesterday at Metazen. The second author is very familiar with the first author.

The first text:

Rip off the wings of dragonflies

Rip off the wings of dragonflies, take their “spines,” their central lengths and a bit of paste, affix them down noses, between the eyes, one per customer. A dream.

The most important thing

The most important thing, about this pen, is to maintain inkflow: (the idea that) the ink must flow and continue flowing, at all times.

A Certain Angle

Remember, he said, when loaning it to me, this pen won’t write unless held at a certain angle.

It is said of the Emperor Fu Kang

“It is said of the Emperor Fu Kang: that He, with eyes unflinching, and a hand at peace, would have His enemies, and He had many, executed by decapitation. Further, that He would have their heads scooped out, embalmed then impregnated with magnet: the cavity that held the brain would be filled with iron, mined in the furthest West. During His ample leisure He enjoyed tossing these magnetized heads at a metallic surface. Actually in later years, with His son gaining influence, His Empire modernizing and so falling to ruin, this metal surface was often the door to an enormous refrigerator, then the largest to be found in the universe (opening it required two teams of oxen and an equator of rope). Inside this fridge the Emperor kept his foodstuffs, luxuriously imported at our expense, at a temperature most appropriate.”

The second text:

Look at the dragonfly

There it is, alighted, I hadn’t prepared before a dragonfly flew through my open window.

What is important?

What is important? I wrote, and then I thought, who wrote that?

An Angle

Over the phone, my father read me a prayer regarding remaining Nothing.

It is said of the 8th Dalai Lama

“It is said of the 8th Dalai Lama, Jamphel Gyatso: that he, upon the invasion of Tibet by Nepalese forces, escaped, and appealed to the Chinese government for help. And the Qianlong Emperor appointed Fu Kang’an commander-in-chief of a military strike against Nepal. And Fu Kang’an liberated Tibet and pushed back the Nepalese forces. The 8th Dalai Lama was said to sit in his bedroom daily, imagining the fighting and feeling gratitude for Fu Kang’an’s generosity. He tried to imagine the mind of a commander-in-chief, or of anyone who would fight to the death, who would kill others in the name of something. And the 8th Dalai Lama sat, and he sat, and he sat.”

Lance Olsen coined the term pla(y)giarism, which he’d playgiarized from Raymond Federman, but whatever way it’s spelled, it’s basically a clever name for appropriation. Back in the day, I used to teach pla(y)giarism to my fiction workshops. I used to make them appropriate texts.

But where does appropriation end and plagiarism begin? It would be one thing if second author had acknowledged the first author in the publication, but he doesn’t. And I’m not sure it would’ve mattered anyway.

OED says plagiarism is: The action or practice of taking someone else’s work, idea, etc., and passing it off as one’s own; literary theft.

Appropriation is: Art (orig. U.S.). The practice or technique of reworking the images or styles contained in earlier works of art, esp. (in later use) in order to provoke critical re-evaluation of well-known pieces by presenting them in new contexts, or to challenge notions of individual creativity or authenticity in art.

I have to be honest: I used to be a big fan of appropriation/pla(y)giarism, whatever. I generated at least two mss through appropriation, but my original sources were always acknowledged/given credit. I “provoke[d] critical re-evaluation of well-known pieces by presenting them in new contexts.”

The difference between appropriation and plagiarism is more than simple acknowledgement. Would it have made a dime of difference if the second had acknowledged the first? Doubtful. I’d still think he’s a hack. That’s about as generous as I can be. (AMENDMENT: I apologize for calling Stephen a hack. It was not personal, and I immediately regretted it. I even sent Stephen an apologizing email.)

Last year, I invited Josh Cohen to read at my school. (Yes, I’ve quoted him twice in one post.) During a public conversation about reading, writing, and publishing, we argued about appropriation. He said appropriation is lazy. I argued for its possibilities, its potentialities, it could be a way of “paying homage” while challenging the original, etc. Now, I agree with him.

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  1. steve roggenbuck

      jesus, this website seems off the hook

  2. lily hoang

      i like every comment you make. you are great.

  3. stephen


  4. Lincoln Michel

      I agree that credit should either be given or be made readily apparent. However, I do think appropriation can be extremely fruitful if done properly. Think of Kathy Aker or Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead. And of course Shakespeare appropriated his plots from Greek myths and many characters reappear throughout literary history (Faust for example) so I suspect that even if one says they don’t like appropriation they really are just drawing the line in a slightly different spot.

  5. stephen

      lol… “very familiar”

  6. lily hoang

      you’re a good sport, stephen.

  7. Lincoln Michel

      That said, this kind of homage/play makes the most sense with texts that are a part of our shared cultural knowledge. Rewriting a recently published piece makes no sense to me.

  8. lily hoang

      Molly Gaudry recently did a number of re-writings of recent pieces. Mine was one of them. But those were more mash-ups.

  9. stephen

      i would suggest thinking a little more before you call someone a hack, lily hoang.

  10. stephen

      what am i saying, nevermind. the everyday genius and the hack. terrific. lol…

  11. stephen

      i should have stayed a good sport. i’m in a rotten mood this morning, unfortunately. i’d like to rescind that comment above. i didn’t “mean” it.

  12. stephen

      i didn’t think it would be so readily identified by people. i kind of meant it as some form of wink to joshua. and a very purposeful rewrite for anyone who might recognize it. but i didn’t think anyone would be offended by it. i don’t know what’s offensive about it, honestly.

  13. Lincoln Michel


  14. stephen

      i could defend it, but i’ve already said waaaaay too much

  15. Blake Butler

      I like the image of the prayer for Nothing in response to the flowing pen image in the mirroring 3rd sections. the second piece seems to me obviously a response to the first, not a direct cribbing, and i don’t think it’s necessary to quote your sources. seems more interesting to not. value judgments of any text aside, i am all for the dismantling of the ego.

  16. lily hoang

      nah, it’s ok, stephen. i put it out there. you’re a good guy, and i have to be honest, it’s a good piece, esp if seen as a response to.

  17. Adam Robinson

      There are a couple nice copyright-questionable poems coming up in Everyday Genius — one from Lance Olsen-associate Davis Schneiderman’s Undeath of the Author series. One a new translation of a recently discovered Poe poem.

  18. Laura Levitis

      If you did that shit to me I would find you and punch you in the neck.

  19. Blake Butler

      Where can i…. read some of your… work… Laura?

  20. stephen

      FYI, there are references to Cohen himself in this piece, originally published in a magazine edited by me in which a piece by Cohen also appeared: http://sometremblingmelody.blogspot.com/ Cohen told me he thought the piece was insane and he liked it, but he did not think it was a story.

  21. stephen

      thank you, lily.

  22. Tim Jones-Yelvington

      I’ve been pretty intrigued and influenced by Davis’s work on copyright issues, fair use law, plagiarization, etc.

      I’m publishing a piece in the queer issue of pank that appropriates chapters from zach german’s book but inserts bursts of graphic sex and violence, like german by way of dennis cooper. It’s by one of several alter egos of a frequent commenter here, somebody pretty influenced by Dennis and by Kathy Acker.

  23. steve roggenbuck

      jesus, this website seems off the hook

  24. lily hoang

      Yeah, Davis really pushes the boundaries re: authorship. What he does goes beyond the scope of what I’m talking about here. And I’m not a big fan of copyright, I’m just not willing to give up mine, which makes me a hypocrite. I can admit my flaws, and I have many.

  25. Lorna Levantis

      If Yule did that shipping container to me I would go to the woods and fine you and then, after, pour punch in your neck.

  26. Matthew Simmons
  27. Rebekah

      Davis and Lance both had pieces in Artifice #1. #2 has English-to-English translations done by Elizabeth Hildreth and also Emily Dickinson poems which have been re-written backwards and also a cento by David Welch composed of John Berrigan lines called Ars Poetica. Copyright schmopyright. Everyone should have a good attitude.

      Stephen’s too interesting and nice to be a hack.

  28. lily hoang

      O! I completely forgot about Elizabeth’s appropriation/rewriting project, which is superb. I shouldn’t have called Stephen a hack. I’m sorry about that, Stephen.

  29. Rebekah

      Dang, did HTMLGIANT eat my pro-Stephen comment?

  30. lily hoang

      i like every comment you make. you are great.

  31. Ryan Call
  32. lily hoang

      I also responded to it above. I’ve apologized privately and now publicly for calling him a hack. It was an unnecessary jab and poorly considered.

  33. Rebekah

      Yes, that one. Phew. Stephen broke HTMLGIANT for a while.

  34. Rebekah

      Liz gets specific permission in advance, I believe, though, which makes it not-plagiarism and also not-pla(y)giarism, really.

  35. Rebekah

      I think that the hack discussion (what makes pla(y)giarists hacks or not-hacks) is a valid one. I just don’t think Stephen is one.

      ALSO Lily, we talked about you at a partial Artifice editors meeting last night. We talked about how you wanted correspondence. And then how also you saw The Social Network.

  36. lily hoang

      1. Liz reworked one of my pieces. I’m very familiar with her and her work. I like. A lot.
      2. Wow. It seems surreal that anyone would talk about me. Speaking of social networks, I will probably post tomorrow about social networks (as a sociologically specific term), GIS (geographic information systems), and epidemics.

  37. Matthew Simmons

      Sometimes I miss the “Load More Comments” button and think that my comments have disappeared. Maybe that?

  38. Tim Jones-Yelvington

      I don’t like that button, I wish it could load all of them at once.

  39. M Kitchell

      I appropriate/steal fragments of things a lot. It makes things fun.

  40. John Minichillo

      Seems pretty obvious these texts are in conversation. How do you even make meaning if your work isn’t in conversation with other works?

      I was in a workshop once where there were two good friends, I think they were roommates maybe. One always wrote about the same quirky character, it was the only thing he had going. When the other handed in a story that stole that character, the writing professor didn’t flinch but simply said, “this one is a better story.” And I learned then that that is all that matters.

      Lily apologized but I don’t see why Joshua Cohen gets to decide who is lazy or why it lends any validity the accusation. There are all kinds of writers under the sun and nearly all the writing is derivative, some of it more directly so. I may have my facts wrong but wasn’t William Walsh teaching a class at Brown on this? A how to class?

      There are tons of examples of writers who do this, some appropriating plots or characters, others copping forms. That Anxiety of Influence ain’t no joke.

      I think James Joyce is a much better writer, but I happen to think Ham on Rye is a better book than Portrait.

      Is that really such an easy thing to do, to write a book that someone else has already written?

  41. Matthew Simmons

      Thanks, Lily! You’re great, too.

  42. Lincoln Michel

      Yeah i’ve been looking for a thread to complain about that it. It gets pretty annoying to click “load more” three times every time you reload a thread. Can it be done away with?

  43. Rion Amilcar Scott

      Isn’t Ham on Rye appropriating/parodying Catcher in the Rye….Hence the title?

  44. John Minichillo

      You are probably right. Insert any coming of age novel.

      But compare the opening passages Ham and Portrait. I don’t have the books with me but I seem to remember them both beginning with memories of being under the kitchen table. There’s something intentional there.

  45. Nick Mamatas

      I love this post so much I copied and pasted it.

  46. Margot

      I read it as a ‘wink’ too – I guess I don’t really know where the author of this blog post is going with her point?

  47. Margot

      yeah, the hack thing really put me off your point, Lily.

  48. Christopher Allen

      The text is obviously a response to the original text. I agree with Blake that it’s not necessary to cite allusions. The writer has taken great care to avoid direct plagiarism. Of course the structure forces us to see the original text, but this is one facet of metafiction that Metazen LIKES.

  49. lily hoang

      Yes, it’s in “conversation” with, but where is the conversation if maybe a handful of people know the original? You’re seeing these stories juxtaposed. Considering the meager shelf-life of my attention span, I would *likely* have seen Stephen’s story AS THE ORIGINAL, had I not been familiar with Cohen’s story. This is the difference between appropriating a known thing (one of my books is an appropriation of Calvino’s Invisible Cities, it’s known and obvious) and a relatively unknown thing. Stephen mentioned publishing a journal which included Cohen among a smattering of other recognizable names. There’s no way I would’ve guess a connection.

      I guess my question is: if that first story was yours and you randomly found the second story, what would your reaction be? Would it be one of immediate generosity and understanding? I get that we all need to let go of our egos (I certainly do), but something similar has happened to me before, and after a brief period of frustration, I appreciated what the other author did with my words/ideas. It’s an honor and a privilege that someone else liked my words/ideas enough to appropriate them. I don’t know. Part of it is the surprise of seeing what you did somewhere else, with someone else’s name attached to it. Maybe I’m too conservative. Maybe I’m too egotistical.

  50. Christopher Allen

      The text is obviously a response to the original text. I agree with Blake that it’s not necessary to cite allusions. The writer has taken great care to avoid direct plagiarism. Of course the structure forces us to see the original text, but this is one facet of metafiction that Metazen LIKES.

  51. Lincoln Michel

      Not to be too pedantic here, but I think of “wink” as meaning a subtle, playful reference to something, not a wholesale re-writing of something. Not that you can’t rewrite a piece, but that’s far more than a wink in my book.

      If Cohen is okay with as Stephen says then fine by me though.

  52. Margot

      I suppose you’re hanging a out out there on ‘known and obvious,’ though, right? It’s presumptuous to state taht Calvino is well-known enough to support your appropriation of it and another to assume that Metazen’s readers can’t draw the connection between the two works. The ‘teaser’ tagline appearing on Metazen’s homepage for this work is ‘What is important? I wrote, and then I thought, who wrote that?’ That said enough for me.

  53. Margot

      ‘a lot’ and ‘that’

  54. drewkalbach

      i’d like it better if cohen weren’t okay with it.

  55. Matt Walker

      i hit “like” by mistake. i’ve actually had enough of this macho “no-holds-barred” attitude in the blog world. less vitriol and more common decency would be a refreshing change.

  56. Alec Niedenthal

      Who says?

  57. Mike Buffalo

      Tim? I’m almost done with rewriting (i.e. writing again) Zachary German’s entire novel. And it was harder than you think. I actually had to read his novel–and that required patience and unendurable attention, to every sign. Plus, it required that I write several hours each night on that book alone, which I really enjoyed, but it started to interfere with my sex life.

      Tim? Do you think we’ll get in trouble? I kind of hope we get in trouble. I think everything should be free. Even trouble, trouble free!

      I got a blurb from Billy Name (he’s the Andy Warhol guy who made the factory silver): “It’s structured like a dream world; endless.” That’s pretty neat coming from a guy who took lots of drugs.

  58. Mike Meginnis

      Man I would never dictate anybody else’s response but that sounds like tremendous fun to me.

  59. stephen

      fyi, cohen’s comment to me was re a different piece by me called “some trembling melody,” which mentions cohen and witz as part of a “wittgenstein’s mistress”-style section (in which markson, dalkey, lil wayne, tao and others are also referenced): http://tinyurl.com/2c3yuyw. cohen’s comment was not re the piece discussed in this post. i don’t know what he thinks about it.

  60. Mike Buffalo

      Yeah, Laura? I’d really like to read your work, too.

  61. Blake Butler

      wasn’t meant as condescension; was meant honestly.

      what do you find objectionable in the use of response in the work here? i honestly i am missing what is stolen. simply because he didn’t link the original, and say, “This is what i’m doing”? i think we’re a little further along than that, no? what’s so wrong about seeing something and responding to it, even line by line? is that not ok? what is ok? why is acker cool because she did it for “politics” but another isn’t cool because, apparently, it’s not politics? or is there another reason? i am trying to understand. i am trying to understand too why people are so protective of the ways they strung their words together, and what others do with them thereafter?

  62. Christopher Allen

      I’ve added the writer’s introduction to the piece that he gave us when he submitted it. Feel free to comment. I think he makes his intentions clear. At least he made them clear to us.

  63. Tribute Band

      If you shit that deed to me, me, me, aye yai-yai yai-yai and neck with [yurp] hunch.

  64. Tribute Band

      Tribute Band liked this

  65. deadgod

      Dickinson indeed gives everyone “permission in advance” – # 557:

      She hideth Her the last –
      And is the first, to rise –
      Her Night doth hardly recompense
      The Closing of Her eyes –

      She doth Her Purple Work –
      And putteth Her away
      In low Apartments in the Sod –
      As Worthily as We.

      To imitate Her life
      As impotent would be
      As make of Our imperfect Mints,
      The Julep – of the Bee –

  66. Lorna Levantis

      Ellen Burstyn.
      YOU SHIT! NEED ME! I’m not yr steppin’ stone for dinner or for lunch.

  67. deadgod

      Me, too.

      Tim and Lincoln, the option of ‘load all’ (instead of 20-at-a-time) came up right after the new format was engaged, and – imperfectly remembered – instructions were offered (to go to disqus, as I recall (??), and get the option permanently on one’s own computer).

      The instructions weren’t ‘intuitive’ enough for me – I’d also appreciate a quick run-through of how to get ‘load all’ fixed as a personal-settings (?) option.

  68. Glibshoot Banned

      If and only if you plead and quit and plead and quit, Would could cold-shoulder gold mines ticket-punched full of stone-shod necktraces.

  69. jereme_dean

      guys, the new system has limitations. disqus is a third party comment provider, meaning every time a page of comments loads it is interfacing with the disqus website. one of the benefits of this system: security.

      security/permissions equals no more mather.

      there are ways to change the comment viewing per site, but, the network traffic is going to grow exponentially. Which means the site may slow down.

      try to get used to it.

      or die.

  70. Alec Niedenthal

      Could Metazen please link to the original EG piece? (I edited that month of EG…)

      I don’t care about the plagiarism–of course, it’s neither my piece nor my place to care. But there is such a thing as plagiarism and, if it were my business, which obviously it isn’t, I would take issue with this piece, if not ethically then aesthetically. Because it’s hard to do anything fun with plagiarism now that imitation has become the norm. Valuable “playgiarism” or whatever is not an interpolation of content in a slight tweaking of form. When Kathy Acker or whoever plagiarizes it has political significance, it’s daring and productive. Not reproductive. To do so is to miss the point, which at this point is pretty fucking shopworn anyway.

  71. darby

      Why apologize? I was happy someone actually had a severe reaction to a piece of online literature and wasnt afraid to say it for once. I mean it was your honest reaction to a piece of literature, right? This gets into a bigger thing ive had on my mind that online literature cant be no-holds-barred critically reviewed for fear of these things. No one emails franzen and apologizes for spewing vitriol. It’s a problem of social networking sharing the same medium as the publication of literature. It’s made the relationship between reader and writer, something we’ve become very used to as being utterly distant, too close for comfort. Art, absent the ability to criticize, becomes static. Online criticism ends up moving toward the opposite extreme of pop culture tabloid criticism, the kind of criticism a loving mother would give to their child, self-conscious in its fear of damaging an author’s self-esteem, and saying nothing substantial about the work itself. We should allow ourselves to be more off the cuff with online lit instead of treating it as something that is “mean.” There is no mean.

  72. lily hoang

      wow. i went away for six hours and this is what i missed. too much to read now, but it looks juicy.

  73. deadgod

      Well, jereme, I’ll not even “try” to abandon comfortable discomfiture, and the ‘dying’ gambit’s not yet an attractive option.

      But you’re right in that this kind of site – and the astounding utility and entertainment of the current internet – beggar small inconveniences.

  74. Brett

      can you say something nice for once.

  75. Blake Butler

      what is this, the Price is Right?

      make things. they aren’t yours.

  76. duane reade panini

      i hit “like” by mistake. i’ve actually had enough of this macho “no-holds-barred” attitude in the blog world. less vitriol and more common decency would be a refreshing change.

  77. Alec Niedenthal

      Who says?

      I mean, thanks, but I’m well aware that “nothing” is “anybody’s,” and I think most people here are too–that doesn’t justify poor form. I think it’s still okay to be annoyed with stuff or at least open stuff up to critique even when it’s long since been established that things aren’t mine.

  78. Blake Butler

      the people that take them away from you

  79. jereme_dean

      a.) nice is a politician. no.

      b.) i have been told it is difficult to tell when i am joking.

      c.) i hate you.

  80. darby

      there is no vitriol as in online writers reviewing other online writers, is what i mean. in general, internet misdirected vitriol could be toned down, i agree.

      also ive hit like by mistake a couple of times too, kind of annoying. too close to reply.

  81. jereme_dean

      you can click unlike matt.

  82. Alec Niedenthal

      OK, Blake. I don’t know why you have to condescend to me because I don’t share your aesthetic values or sensibility or whatever–which, incidentally, I think I do, in fact I completely agree that plagiarism is a viable and powerful technique, but like anything technique it can be deployed well or badly.

  83. Blake Butler

      wasn’t meant as condescension; was meant honestly.

      what do you find objectionable in the use of response in the work here? i honestly i am missing what is stolen. simply because he didn’t link the original, and say, “This is what i’m doing”? i think we’re a little further along than that, no? what’s so wrong about seeing something and responding to it, even line by line? is that not ok? what is ok? why is acker cool because she did it for “politics” but another isn’t cool because, apparently, it’s not politics? or is there another reason? i am trying to understand. i am trying to understand too why people are so protective of the ways they strung their words together, and what others do with them thereafter?

  84. darby

      even if its deployed badly though, its just failed art, right. why does the finger get pointed at plagiarism only then.

  85. John Minichillo
  86. Alec Niedenthal

      Yeah, those are all good and provocative questions. This isn’t legal plagiarism obviously. I think–and, of course, this is just how I view Stephen’s piece–that Stephen is appropriating Cohen’s piece and, well, what’s he doing with it? The reason this is so meta, and this is what I find interesting about the piece, is because it’s not taking a canonical work and “plagiarizing” it (or whatever you want to call what it’s doing); it’s taking a tiny story that’s barely cold and remaking it. Which is interesting but it’s also so derivative of Cohen’s story without commenting on it in a productive way–which would stimulate a conversation, and even did when plagiarism was still novel in its self-conscious form–that, as having published it (and not having as much stake in it as Cohen, but I was proud of including this piece), I can’t help but be a little pissed about it. Just a little. What would’ve been more interesting is if the story included the full text of Cohen’s story. I’m not sure whether Stephen’s piece takes an irreverent or “dialogic” attitude toward Cohen’s piece, maybe both, which also may or may not matter.

  87. Alec Niedenthal

      I don’t know. Good question. I think hypothetically it’s normal to feel possessive about stuff you’ve made.

  88. Alec Niedenthal

      I dunno. Maybe I’m missing something about Stephen’s piece, too, which is totally possible and even likely.

  89. david

      I think you make a really good point, Alec: it is normal to be possessive about your work. Like I’m sure Blake might be a little peeved if Michael Bay suddenly decided to film ‘Scorch Atlas’ without needing his permission. But as you point out, this isn’t legal plagiarism. As the quick fix go-to idea in cases of copying, plagiarism gets bandied about way too broadly. The heft of its legal meaning is attriubuted to it when it takes place outside the realm of a theft. So, to cite the general legal definition of plagiarism, it is to take “the writings or literary concepts (a plot, characters, words) of another and selling and/or publishing them as one’s own product. Quotes which are brief or are acknowledged as quotes do not constitute plagiarism. The actual author can bring a lawsuit for appropriation of his/her work against the plagiarist and recover the profits. Normally plagiarism is not a crime, but it can be used as the basis of a fraud charge or copyright infringement if prior creation can be proved.” Though there’s an emphasis on unfair profit or credit earning, which imports the quotes and citation rules of copyright, I think the key aspect of this definition is the notion that plagiarism normally operates as a basis for a fraud charge or copyright infringement – in that regard, if I take your work and more than borrow from it, but I demonstrate requisite originality, whether that originality is poor or excellent, then the plagiaristic act is not a theft but a reproduction even when it’s almost identical. I mean, this is what Warhol’s work is all about really: the scandal of images is that they steal nothing even though they are almost exactly the same. In that sense, what they create is their own originality in each instant, which is confusable for the original originality of the original instant, because one origin, in terms of its ‘originalness’, looks and feels the same as another. Not surprisingly, people get upset at times when their work is redone in a way they hate but while they have the possessive right to the original text and, indeed, to the integrity of the originality of their original, or, in other words, they have the right to their free singularity of their signature, they don’t have carte blanche over their work’s copyability. For if they did, you’d basically have the sort of regime that the First Amendment was theoretically designed to outlaw. While my speech should be free to be my own, it should not be owned by me as that which others cannot have for free. That’s part of why copyright law is so fundamentally threatening today as its effectively hollowing out free speech protections from the inside out. Anyhow, long story short, in that sense, not citing Cohen is distinctly plagiaristic – that’s exactly the word for it – but in the loose, lay sense of copying out. While I don’t think this particular instance is wholly successful, especially compared to Cohen’s sort of fluid mastery, it’s not wrong, or even lazy, necessarily, to do something like this; it’s re- not de-origination.

  90. Jhon

      It’s one thing to be a young writer learning to write and ripping off someone you like to learn to feel your way through their style but dear don’t fucking show anyone. Example one is great writing and example two is bad satire, really bad satire. R&G are dead is good satire, paying homage is fantastic but have the good graces to cite and thank – otherwise If I had found #2 first and later learned that #1 existed first I would call the writer what he is – a Thief and probably a hack. I back this up after seeing that on his site, Stephen, calling the theft merely “similarities” and still not owning up to it being appropriation or homage or play-gerism, still seeming to claim sole authorship.
      the text that has been plagiarized is too recent for it to be anything other.

  91. lily hoang

      “When Kathy Acker or whoever plagiarizes it has political significance, it’s daring and productive. Not reproductive”


  92. Sean
  93. Sean

      When is Mean Week. I am choking on apologies.

  94. lily hoang

      wow. i went away for six hours and this is what i missed. too much to read now, but it looks juicy.

  95. Tim Horvath

      Appy polly loggies.

  96. deadgod


      An excellent reason to delay Mean Week.

  97. Sean

      An Apology
      By F.J. Bergmann

      Forgive me
      for backing over
      and smashing
      your red wheelbarrow.

      It was raining
      and the rear wiper
      does not work on
      my new plum-colored SUV.

      I am also sorry
      about the white

  98. Jhon

      so you knew what you were doing was at least a little wrong – if you didn’t think people would notice and all.

  99. stephen

      no. i have never thought it was wrong. i had an idea, and i executed the idea. in my brain it was no different than thinking about moments from a relationship and trying to “build” a story around those moments, or having a bit from a pound poem stuck in my head and wanting to find an excuse to put the word “cortege” somewhere. well, one difference was that i felt like i was “responding to”/”reworking” cohen’s piece, rather than incorporating it into something else. so it was more, um, not confrontational, maybe more “dialogue-initiating” than the average reference. it was not an homage. it was a rewrite vis-a-vis abstract themes, as i perceived them. the emperor becomes here the dalai lama. i was focused while writing on what the piece “meant” or was “doing” or looked like to me, not on what anyone else’s reaction might be. i wondered if joshua would recognize it, but i didn’t think about that too much. i didn’t think there would be any reaction beyond my friends or something. i mentioned to a few friends what it was based on, but they didn’t seem to care. they just liked the piece on its own.

  100. Tim Jones-Yelvington


      I love how you and your friends often begin your messages by saying the addressee’s name as a question.

      One the one-hand it’s like, Hello? Can anyone hear me? On the other, it’s like Tim? Is it really you? Is there really a you? What is Tim?

  101. Tim Jones-Yelvington

      That one little sentence just raised my “liked comment” point tally like crazy.

  102. Tim Jones-Yelvington

      “or die” just made me giggle.

  103. M Kitchell

      i have read this thread and been interested, i guess, in the sort of weird & possessive reactions. i am prone to siding with blake, in that you make something and then it is a thing, it is now in the world learning how to navigate its own autonomy.

      but that is arguable of course, and i’ll agree with whoever above stated that it seems like the only discernible difference between whether somebody is getting offended or not is whether or not “good” or “bad” art is the result of said “plagiarism.” which, dang, that’s so mega objective.

      i don’t see how what stephen is doing is anything different than what tarantino does in virtually all of his films, borrowing precise structures from his favorite films in order to fill them with his own obsessions. and while i personally find tarantino shitty, the people who love to praise that shit don’t even seem to care.

      besides, is it only deplorable if it stays within the same medium? i, along with what i assume to be many other authors, borrow pretty precise architectures and fill them with stories. i look at pictures and describe exactly what i’m seeing and surround the description with events. if the architect responsible for the building that i am literally stealing ends up not liking my work, can he sue me? should he sue me? would it be way annoying for him to sue me? should the landscape designers of the 18th century responsible for the pastoral settings that end up in so many paintings that are now worth billions of dollars be claiming that they’re owed something? do dakota fanning & hayley joel osment own their names? should tao lin be sued for using them?

      there is shit in the world and sometimes it ends up other places, and personally if i am responsible for shit that somebody else likes enough to make a new use of, i get way excited because that allows me to locate myself within some stream of progression, movement, an event, and that is an exciting thing.

  104. M Kitchell

      and to extend it even further: should balzac, or whoever we can claim responsible for what has been the majority of canonical ‘realist’ fiction be rolling over his grave that so many people are finding success via the structure that he perfected over a hundred years ago? i mean, if we are taking this to extremes whoever invented the form of the codex/book should be pretty pissed that so many people are using this to put their own ideas in.

  105. Matthew Simmons

      I’m hoping to get five more soon because I understand that when that happens, I get the Disqus Zippo lighter.

      ALSO: Disqus flags the word “Disqus” with that dotted little red line indicating that the word “Disqus” is spelled wrong? Or does the architecture of the blog itself do that and “Disqus” gets caught in the coding crossfire.

  106. Tim Jones-Yelvington

      How many you got now?


  107. steve roggenbuck

      let’s kick some ass guys

  108. Mandy Boles

      When I look at the two pieces side by side, I immediately think “response piece”. I don’t think a source or explanation should be necessary when writing poetry (unless there is a direct quote which there is not in this instance). It makes the act clinical. It’s a more organic experience to me to read the poem and either:
      a. know it is a response to the Cohen piece
      b. just enjoy it as a stand alone piece and live out my life

      This is a case of making a mountain out of a nonexistent molehill.
      And yes, I’m late to this party.

  109. More Plagiarism More Heartache | Jacqui

      […] [Image Source] Share this:EmailFacebookStumbleUponDigg About the authorJacquiI am a Kuwaiti Apple and gadget girl freak, who gets bored of her blog layouts so much that I change them like I crazy. Currently I work in a newspaper and if you don't see me around I'm being sucked into my job reviewing TV Shows and APPS! This is my space where I vent and release everything, welcome to it. […]