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Posted by: quokimo (
Date: May 13, 2004 11:12PM

my wife is an English/creative writing teacher in a middle school and she has some VERY good poetry submissions--waaay beyond what you'd expect from middle school kids--especially those who have trouble writing single sentences. In the interest of putting this to bed quickly, we wanted to find the original versions of the poems with the poets names. We've had success in the past just looking on Yahoo, but this time we haven't found the poems. Can anyone suggest a good resource for finding poems whose titles and perhaps first lines have been changed?

Re: plagarism
Posted by: lg (
Date: May 14, 2004 12:47AM

Quokimo, as a former school teacher I share your concern for controlling the input to your students and their subsequent output. You want the students to read and learn from the masters, but you don't necessarily want them to imitate them and you most certainly don't want the students to copy from them.

A few points to consider:

1. Trying to find the author/source of the quotes is probably not a worthwhile pursuit. Why? The kids may be savvy enough to use sites like this to find unpublished poems, or they might find a book of poems by a poet(s) still under copyright which couldn't be found using normal search strategies.

2. What can you do to validate the poet's authenticity? The proof is in the pudding. Ask the student to duplicate the style by writing another poem/poems on different subjects. If the student actually wrote the poems in the first place, this will be no problem. If they didn't, they will object all the way to the supreme court. Be ready for that. Have copies of everything that that student/students have written on file. Be ready to show parents and principal the differences in calibre between the current work and their previously submitted assignments.

3. Downgrade the assignment. If you had considered counting this assignment as one third of the term mark, consider downgrading it to one tenth or less. In lieu of this assignment add an assignment which is created in class, which you can validate by observation.

I hope these suggestions help with your dilemma. The bottom line is don't spend time looking for the quotes. The kids are as smart as you are and as a group they carry more clout, so make sure you know the assignment is valid or they may challenge your expertise.


Post Edited (05-13-04 23:55)

Re: plagarism
Posted by: quokimo (
Date: May 14, 2004 01:03AM

Thanks Les, you've echoed much of what my wife's colleagues have already suggested to her. I was hoping to save her some grief by finding the poem because the student vehemently denies plagarizing even though she can't explain the metaphors in the poem. She can't even define some of the vocabulary. The principal is very good and will support her, but I just hoped to save her some headache. Anyway here is the poem in case someone recognizes it.

Lions drink their rum
Outside the corner cafe
Tigers chat in silence
They've nothing to say

Dolphins swimming freely
Within the violet sea
playing with the mermaids
all laughing with glee

Going out on safari
Winnie Tigger and you
In search of blue monkeys
To put in the zoo

Unicorns on the beach
marching in red sand
Purples pinks and blues
spill across a black sand

cloudless starfilled skies
two blue moons for light
the naked lovers gather
making love through the night

Pandas screaming poetry
To crowds that can't hear
the parade is beginning
Great spider king is near

Re: plagarism
Posted by: Johnny SansCulo (
Date: May 14, 2004 09:58AM

Well the meter is inconsistent......some of the lines seem familiar...but if it were me, I'd be inclined to give her the benefit of the doubt.

Re: plagarism
Posted by: Hugh Clary (
Date: May 14, 2004 01:02PM

What he said. Lack of consistent meter, problems with punctuation and capitalization.

If someone wants to cheat, there are too many ways to do so without being catchable. For example, I searched Google for the front page poem from the [] site with no success: [] />
There are a zillion poems on this (scam) site a student could choose. Give her the B+ grade and move on. Persistent plagiarism will show itself eventually.

Re: plagarism
Posted by: Talia (
Date: May 14, 2004 01:35PM

Wow. Now I'm scared to be an english teacher.

Re: plagarism
Posted by: Marian-NYC (
Date: May 14, 2004 04:01PM

Just chiming in. Being wrongly accused of plagiarism would be a terribly dispiriting experience for a budding poet. Unless you have absolute proof, just don't!

This thread did get me thinking about how, IF you wanted to, you could test the student's connection to the poem. What came to mind was a scene near the end of the movie WORKING GIRL, when Sigourney Weaver is trying to take credit for Melanie Griffith's business idea. Good old what's-his-name says to Sigourney: "Why don't you tell Mr. Trask how you came up with the idea." And of course, she can't answer. But Melanie can.

And I imagine that if you asked students to talk about where the ideas and the images in their poems came from, you'd get some excited answers and some panicky stares.

There there's the Chalk Circle / Wisdom of Solomon method. Suggest that the poem should be cut or brutally changed--a really BAD suggestion. The more the student bristles, the more likely his-her authorship. BUT this could also be devastating to a first-time poet, so I don't think I'd actually do it.

re THIS PARTICULAR POEM: Whether or not I had suspicions of plagiarism, I think I'd point out to Young Poet that the SAFARI stanza doesn't work as well as the others; that it's the only stanza containing "you" and the only one containing pre-existing characters from someone else's work (Milne). I'd ask her to think about changing it. If she can't or won't, THAT PROVES NOTHING!!! But if she appreciates your close reading and produces a new and better stanza, that would tend to authenticate.

Re: plagarism
Posted by: Pam Adams (
Date: May 14, 2004 07:03PM

Perhaps she used a cybernetic poetry program.


Re: plagarism
Posted by: Johnny SansCulo (
Date: May 17, 2004 05:40PM

Mr Data and the Borg
went to
nearly ended in the morgue
tried to find a rhyme with Borg

Then the Borg and Mr Data
ate 5 gigs of mashed potata
washed it down with ade of gator
tried again with version beta

Re: plagarism
Posted by: quokimo (
Date: May 17, 2004 05:52PM

Thanks for all your responses.

The mystery has been solved! The verse was stolen from the mother's former college roomate. Actually, the student stole an entire poetry collection from her mother's former roomate. My wife was suspicious of everything, but that particular poem was the best of the collection. The imagery, although inconsistent, was much better than could be expected of a poor Junior High aged writer, and when the student couldn't discuss the alleged work or even read it aloud properly my wife knew it was someone else's. Luckily, the kid copped to the plagarism and from the sound of the confession the mother may have complied with the attempted deception, but that could just be the kid trying to appear less guilty.

Anyway, I love the line "Pandas screaming poetry"
That line still feels familiar to me.
Thanks again,

Re: plagarism
Posted by: Marian-NYC (
Date: May 17, 2004 06:01PM

Congratulations -- and condolences -- on solving the case.

Re: plagarism
Posted by: Johnny SansCulo (
Date: May 18, 2004 10:29AM

Yeah, I liked the Pandas screaming poetry too

"we're BLACK ! we're WHITE ! we eat bamboo all NIGHT !"

Either that verse describing the beauty of the Chinese countryside,,,,,but being SCREAMED !

Re: plagarism
Posted by: Johnny SansCulo (
Date: May 18, 2004 10:33AM

Can I use the word "screw" in a non-fastening sense?....cause I had another line that I liked to have the Pandas scream

Re: plagarism
Posted by: Marian-NYC (
Date: May 18, 2004 02:59PM

Tell mom's college roommate that the SAFARI stanza needs work, but we love the rest of it!

Re: plagarism
Posted by: Johnny SansCulo (
Date: May 18, 2004 04:20PM

oK..I can't wait for goes

We're BLACK...we're WHITE...we eat bamboo all NIGHT
they make us screw
in the DC zoo
in hopes that we will reprodue

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