In Which I Confess To
Plagiarising Many Poems
Plagiarising Ross Sutherland
On my way home from the poetry reading,
I call into The Austral for a steadying drink
and marvel at the fact that I, Michael J Hopkins,
have not yet been exposed as a plagiarist.
Even though my bio states that I have been heavily influenced
by certain other poets, that I’ve read widely, that I may be channeling
Gertrude Stein and Kenneth Koch, that I attend séances
where my pen is possessed by the spirits of dead poets,
the critics still praise me as an original talent. In my early period
I would make at least some effort to cover my tracks. Lifting whole slabs
of works by obscure Canadian poets was my favourite gambit. Thankfully,
not many people have a copy of Best Manitoban Poetry 1997.
I just replaced snow with red dirt, Douglas firs
with Blue gums, grizzlies with kangaroos, Pierre Trudeau
with Paul Keating and was careful to remove
all references to Mounties. Over time I became bolder.
I incorporated well-known lines unchanged: I wandered lonely …
Shall I compare thee …, It was the man from Ironbark … But my audiences
smiled at my cleverness and applauded. These days I steal poems
wholesale. I can hardly be bothered to change the title. I won the T.S. Eliot
with a clone of The Waste Land, (opening line: August is the shittest month)
the Blake Prize with a knock-off of And did those feet in ancient time,
set to a mix of cockney rhyming slang and ocker (And ya reckon those plates back in the day…?),
the Montreal Prize with a sonnet commencing Shall I compare thee to a winter’s night?
My proudest achievement is putting a third-century Chinese classic through
Google Translate and publishing it as my own original homage to Tao Yuanming.
SQuadrant described it as poetry of ennui, shifting towards sustained
transcendental inclination. It’s great they can find jobs for these critics.
When people ask me to autograph books of my poetry, I sign
with someone else’s name: Keats, Collins, Armitage, even Heaney.
Think of a poet, I’ve copied them. But people don’t bother to read
the scrawled inscription: All their own work or the badly forged signature.
Ira Lightman will track me down eventually,
but I’ll transfer the prize money to the Cayman Islands and decamp
to a south-east Asian country where poetry is valued more than the poet who claims
to have written it and where they appreciate a genuine charlatan.
Er… © 2020 Mike Hopkins. Image from here
Listen to Ross Sutherland’s poem here