A Canadian Poet Laureate Is Accused Of Plagiarizing Tupac Shakur

Pierre DesRuisseaux’s work seems to have been lifted from other poets.

A Canadian Poet Laureate Is Accused Of Plagiarizing Tupac Shakur A letter handwritten and signed by Tupac Shakur. up for auction in New York City. July 19, 2017.   Photo by Nicholas Hunt for Getty Images

Tupac Shakur, Maya Angelou, and Dylan Thomas are just some of the poets whose work seems to have been plagiarized by Pierre DesRuisseaux, a Canadian poet laureate, according to a new report in The National Post.

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DesRuisseaux poetry collection Tranches de vie contains a stanza from Shakur's poem "Sometimes I Cry," reproduced with minor changes and under the new title "When I’m Alone." It's one of 30 such examples of uncredited lifting, according to poetry detective Ira Lightman. Compare the Shakur/DesRuisseaux poems below, via the Post.

Sometimes I Cry (Tupac Shakur)
Sometimes when I’m alone
I cry because I’m on my own
The tears I cry are bitter and warm
They flow with life but take no form

When I’m Alone (Pierre DesRuisseaux)
Sometimes when I’m alone I cry
Because I’m alone.
The tears I cry are bitter and burning.
They flow with life, they do not need reason.

Before his death in January 2016, DesRuisseaux received the Governor General’s Award for French poetry and was named a parliamentary poet laureate.

The veracity of DesRuisseaux's poetry became the subject of scrutiny in May 2016, when poet Kathy Figueroa noticed the similarities between an English translation of DesRuisseaux's "J’avance," and Maya Angelou's "Still I Rise" (the French-English translation of the phrase "J'avance" is "I rise.")

After Figueroa posted about the similiarities in a Facebook group called “Plagiarism Alerts,” Ira Lightman began translating DesRuisseaux's poetry and searching for similar stanzas. He found uncredited passages by other famous figures like Charles Bukowski, as well as amateur, unpublished poets.

Éditions du Noroît, DesRuisseaux's publisher, is no longer selling Tranches de vie after Lightman emailed them with his concerns in 2016. No statement has yet been issued.

September 11, 2017
A Canadian Poet Laureate Is Accused Of Plagiarizing Tupac Shakur