Pierre DesRuisseaux, 2000
Photo: (Jacques Grenier/ Le Devoir)
There is a long history of white artists plagiarizing and appropriating work by artists of color and on Monday (Sept. 11) it was revealed that the late Canadian poet laureate Pierre DesRuisseaux joins the list.
A piece published by The Guardian looks into how poet Ira Lightman found out via a Facebook post that DesRuisseaux plagiarized “Still I Rise,” the iconic, powerful poem by Maya Angelou. He began scanning his poems, checking for other plagiarized work and found that DesRuisseaux had lifted work from Federico García Lorca, Tupac and countless others.
The poet got away with this by translating the work into French, without anyone checking its veracity until now.
You can compare Tupac’s poem with DesRuisseaux’s version below:
“Sometimes I Cry” (fragment):
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” (fragment):
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.