Pierre DesRuisseaux was Canada’s poet laureate from 2009 to 2011.
A former Canadian poet laureate appears to have plagiarized from several famous authors including Maya Angelou, Charles Bukowski, and Tupac Shakur.
Pierre DesRuisseaux served as Parliamentary Poet Laureate from 2009 to 2011. He died in 2016.
His 2013 book of French poetry, Tranche de vie, includes numerous examples of uncredited borrowing from other writers, according to Ira Lightman, a British poet who has outed several high-profile plagiarists.
Lightman alerted DesRuisseaux's Montreal-based publisher last year, but he only went public with his investigation in a recent Guardian profile.
Lightman found 30 different poems in Tranche de vie that had unaccredited sources, including Angelou's famous “Still I Rise” and Tupac's “Sometimes I Cry.”
“My first reaction was very much, ‘This must be an uncredited translation,'” Lightman told BuzzFeed Canada.
Lightman said many poets translate other writers and include that work in anthologies, often specifically to “muck around with big names” in creative ways.
“The odd thing is to muck around with big names and not credit it,” he said. “And then the odd thing about Pierre DesRouisseaux’s book is that … he’s also picking from really minor, odd amateur poets.”
In his investigation of DesRouisseaux's book, Lightman found one particularly strange example. The former poet laureate had apparently plagiarized the work of a teenager who posted on allpoetry.com, whose poems include “My Xbox” and “My Five Kitty Cats.”
Parliament of Canada / Via lop.parl.ca
Lightman has exposed a half-dozen prominent cases of plagiarism in the four years he has been doing this work, and although not widespread, plagiarism is still a problem he thinks many people in the poetry world would prefer to ignore.
He said his research shows that when it comes to plagiarists, “it's not so much that it’s the first time they’ve done it, but that they’ve finally been caught out doing it.”
Still, he was unable to find any theft in DesRuisseaux's other books that he examined, and he's still not sure what to make of the former Canadian poet laureate.
“His dictionary and etymology work seems fantastic. His work as a translator seems fantastic. He’s clearly not bogus and he’s not talentless. But I don’t know,” Lightman said. “This one is either a step too far or a step too blatant — or it may be the exception to the rule. I just don’t know.”
DesRuisseaux's publisher, Editions du Noroit, told Radio-Canada that Trance de vie had a very limited run, selling fewer than 100 copies. The book has since been removed from shelves.