Sunday, July 23, 2006

Academy of American Plagiarists

Academy of American Poets Website

Dear Sir or Madam:

As the biographer of the poet Louis Zukofsky, I was pleased to see the Academy of American Poets finally devoting a page on their website to Zukofsky. I was less pleased, however, to discover that the vast majority of the biographical text on that page had been more or less directly lifted without acknowledgement from a biographical article that I wrote on Zukofsky some years ago for the Dictionary of Literary Biography. An expanded version of that article was published in my monograph Louis Zukofsky and the Poetry of Knowledge (University of Alabama Press, 1998), and the text of that chapter (with corrections) was presented on the University of Illinois’s “Modern American Poets” website – which I assume is the proximate source for the AAP’s webpage text.

Of course, whoever redacted my text for the AAP’s webpage seems to have lost interest about halfway through and, after rather closely tracking my own prose describing Zukofsky’s early career, is content to summarize the bulk of Zukofsky’s accomplishment in a few inane sentences: “Zukofsky’s own work never achieved much recognition outside literary circles. His poetry tended to be obscure, experimental, and intellectual.”

I won’t dwell on the other infelicities of the page, except to note that when your writer reduces my sentence
Pound was appropriately impressed, both by "Poem beginning 'The'" and by Zukofsky's critical sense, which he demonstrated in his 1929 essay on The Cantos (one of the very first analyses of Pound's work-in-progress)
Zukofsky further impressed Pound by writing the first analyses of Pound’s The Cantos in 1929, which were still unfinished at the time,
she or he gives the impression that Pound’s poem – which would remain unfinished at Pound’s death in 1972 – was on the verge of being completed in 1929; and that the sentence which starts “Begun in 1927, Zukofsky spent the rest of his life working on ‘A'” commits a rather grave grammatical solecism.

I don’t particularly mind having my prose on Zukofsky used to inform casual readers about Zukofsky’s works and career. But I am rather irritated to find my prose appropriated without request or acknowledgement and reduced to gibberish at the hands of anonymous redactors. I would have expected better of an organization as well-established and respected as the Academy of American Poets.

Yours truly,
Mark Scroggins


Jessica Smith said...

well-said, Mark. let us know if/how they respond.

Norman Finkelstein said...

For what it's worth, Mark, you may want to consider sending copies of the letter to the AAP's Board of Chancellors. At least a few of them are bound to be concerned. And yes, it's right on target.

Amy said...

Give 'em hell, Scroggins! I'd bet they farmed out the page to a no-pay writer who plagiarised and profaned your prose for the CV line, and they had no idea what they were getting.

E. M. Selinger said...

They ought to PAY you, Mark, for your prose, just like the Gale Group does when they reprint things. They may not be the richest Academy around, but they can bloody well reprint you properly AND send you a check.


Anonymous said...

But these things happen, Mark. I once sent an email to a listserve regarding a recent book of poems I'd admired; shortly thereafter it turned up as the blurb on the volume's jacket. I was rather flattered, I must say!