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Other plagiarism arguments

People overly concerned with tracking down and denouncing plagiarism have defective characters.  They are small-minded, reactionary bullies....

Monday, October 23, 2017

Other plagiarism arguments

People overly concerned with tracking down and denouncing plagiarism have defective characters.  They are small-minded, reactionary bullies.

Since the fine people accused of plagiarism will likely feel bad about it, the main reaction should be to feel sorry for them / defend them against "lynch mobs" and "witch hunts."

Nobody is that original anyway.  We should be humble and not take these things too seriously.

Originality is over-rated in the first place.  It is a just "fetish."

Authorship is a fetish too.

Let's talk about something else for a change.

But... Trump! Weinstein!

Capitalism is bad. Nobody should own poetry. (Property is theft, per Marx.).

Poetry should belong to everyone.

Illiterate blues musicians....

The poem I stole from you was not that great anyway.  Who do you think you are?

Since there is no real money in poetry, the idea that it can be "stolen" is ridiculous.

In the distant past, most poetry was anonymous.

Poetry is not a real job.

The internet.

Copyright is a recent invention.  

We all write in the same alphabet so there are limited things we can express.  

Since nobody reads poetry, we shouldn't care about who the authors are, whom we are not likely to be reading. The stakes are too low for us to care.

It's all in a gray area, so let's approach the problem through a more nuanced view (which ends up holding nobody culpable).

Andy Croft

This kind of thing drive me crazy:

Personally I have never been remotely interested in“plagiarism” scandals, which always seem to me to demean everyone involved,like excitable children accusing each other of copying. All poets writing in English use the same language, the same alphabet and the same grammatical structure. We are all inheritors of the same literary traditions. We all drink from the same well. No poet should be so lacking in humility as to think that they can ever write anything that is “original”. All any of us can ever hope to do is to restate in a contemporary idiom what has already been said, probably by much better poets than we can ever be. An original poem is as impossible as an original colour. Which is perhaps why, for all the current emphasis on poets finding their “voice”, so many contemporary poets sound the same...

 This is so fallacious it beggars belief, but I see people making this argument all the time. We know, mathematically speaking, that the chances of two people coming up with the same 8 word sentence is infinitesimal.  Because, well, math. It's not the alphabet that's preventing originality.

The fallacy is conflating originality 1 (unique sentences and paragraphs never existing before) with

originality 2 (something original in a more profound sense)

Originality 1 is very easy to achieve, and just involves not copying things verbatim, writing the ideas that come out of ones own brain.

Originality 2 is impossible to achieve, therefore let's not bother with 1 either?

I despise this discourse of humility.

This also

And why should the poetry world suddenly be the focus of these questions about ownership. Why now? Why poetry? Why not the worlds of, say, ventriloquism, athletics, topiary or pottery? Who benefits from the importation of this legal vocabulary into poetry?   The current moral panic over “plagiarism in poetry” seems to me to derive from several overlapping elements—the post-Romantic privatisation of feeling and language, the fetishisation of “novelty” in contemporary culture, half-hearted notions of intellectual property, the long-term consequences of Creative Writing moving from university adult education onto campus as an academic subject, the professionalisation of poetry, and the creation of a large pool of Creative Writing graduates competing for publication, jobs and prizes at the same time as a catastrophic decline in the number of poetry publishers.

People like to know who came up with the words of a poem, poets don't like their work stolen.  It is very simple.  It is not a moral panic at all. This also commits the famous "why now" fallacy.  There is no "why no" because there are always plagiarism controversies, whenever someone plagiarizes and gets caught.  And the list of factors listed didn't all happen at the same time either so they have no explanatory power.  

Friday, October 20, 2017


I wrote a contrafactum to rhythm changes today. Or I should say that one just occurred to the fingers of my right hand as I was playing, after working out some bass lines. I didn't do anything with the B section of it.  I'm thinking that should be improvised.

I did decide to use the chords D7 / G7 / C-7 / B7 for the bridge (instead of C7 / F7), and to make a few other minor reharmonizations in the A section.


Here are some ideas about Monk on or around his 100th birthday. People talk to me about Monk sometimes, or I read something they've written, and I tend to think I know a tiny bit more about Monk than other people (aside from jazz musicians or musicologists expert in him, of course), having listened to him since around 1975. Someone tried to tell me recently that Monk could not read music. This was uncomfortable for me because I don't like to show up ignorant people in person and I was accused of "pissing on my parade."

 I tend to emphasize not his eccentricity but his musical uniqueness, though you could argue his uniqueness as a musician stems from the fact that he is not a conventional thinker.

I don't try to compose like Monk when I write music, because my mind moves in much more conventional directions. I did write a contrafactum to Bemsha Swing once though.

1) Bebop but not bebop. Stylistically, Monk is not very boppish in his playing if we think of Bud Powell as the standard way of playing in this style. Every other bop pianist sounds like Powell more or less. Monk's playing is one of a kind. You can tell that he began as a stride pianist, because he can revert to that. You can tell that Monk felt time differently than many other musicians, and his use of rubato can be extreme. Because he was not a conventional bop pianist (though a founder of bop) his influence is felt in the jazz avant-garde.

2) Humor. A lot of people don't hear musical humor because it can be relatively subtle. Monk can be very funny. There's a version of "Lulu's Back in Town" on a wildly out-of-tune piano that's hilarious. Tunes like "Brilliant Corners," "Friday the Thirteenth," "Ugly Beauty" or "Boo Boo's Birthday" are very witty too. Playing a standard in a Monk style can be inherently funny because of the disparity between

3) Melody.  As a player and composer Monk is all about the melody.  He has wonderful melodies like "Monk's Mood" or "Crepuscule for Nellie."  I like Andrew Hill a lot, a pianist-composer similar to Monk in some ways, but Hill's melodies are not catchy the way Monk's are.  As an improviser, Monk likes to embellish the melody rather than play endless scales over the chord changes.  Ornette is another great melodist, of course, whose music would be played more if it had standard chord changes.

4) Structure. He liked to work in 12 bar blues and in 32 bar song form. He could do everything he needed to do without modifying these forms. "Bemsha Swing" has a form even simpler than a 12 bar blues. Harmonically, he could be simple or very complex, depending on the circumstances.

5) Ugly Beauty. Monk's all about the beauty of the music. We can hear lyrical tenderness in "Round Midnight," "Crepuscule for Nellie," "Reflections," "Pannonica" or "Monk's Mood." But what about the dissonance and percussiveness? That just deepens the beauty by making it more complex.

6) Emotion and Intellect.  Barthes talks about the dichotomy between the head and the heart as a cornerstone of a kind of bourgeois ideology. I don't know if I am responding to Monk with the thinking part of my brain or on an emotional level, because his music transcends that division completely.

Thursday, October 19, 2017


Poetry Foundation: 

Poet Stanley Plumly was born in Barnesville, Ohio, and grew up in the lumber and farming regions of Virginia and Ohio. His father was a lumberjack and welder who died at age fifty-six of a heart attack linked to his alcoholism. 


Stanley, Plumly, my poet-teacher, was born in Barnesville, OhioHis father was a lumberjack and and welder who died at age fifty-eight of alcoholism

Another probable source?  


Also, not a plagiarism, but really?  "Influenced by European poets like Lorca and Neruda..."  (p. 124).  

Wednesday, October 18, 2017


With the Bialosky scandal I realize that my memoir of reading poetry is irremediably academic, in the sense that, much as she think of herself as a "thinky person," she is really not, ni mucho menos. As a poet, she is the type who thinks a good poem has a lot of words like shimmering and glittering. A pretty poem with pretty words. She is not an intellectual person.

More bizarro scholarship

Bizarrely, Bialosky thinks that Wallace Stevens's poem "The Snow Man" is about children building a snow man.  She tries to make this connection to the poem in order to make her book about poetry a "memoir," but the effort is very clumsy, because, well, the poem is not about that. That is just the title.