Can a Poetry Plagiarist be Redeemed?

Can someone who has copied someone else’s poem, changed it slightly and then tried to pass it off as their own work be welcomed back into the poetry community? They can, but it will take a change of attitude and some patience in following these four initial steps:

  1. Acknowledge the justified loss of trust of the poetry community and that getting that trust back will take work.
  2. Pay back any competition monies won through plagiarism (in installments if need be). Also check any published poems and poems accepted for publication for plagiarism and apologise to the poets and editors involved.
  3. Choose to check through unpublished poems and separate plagiarised poems from non-plagiarised poems or bin the lot and start again.
  4. Take a break.

Rebuilding a reputation will take time, but can be done. Before doing so, carefully consider if poetry is the right direction. Writing a poem is hard work and there aren’t any short cuts. If deciding to continue writing poetry, considering the following options:


Volunteer to review for poetry magazines or review poetry publications on a blog. Help organise a local or on-line poetry workshop. Help out with open mic events. If there aren’t any local events or workshops, start one.

Get out into the Poetry Community

Attend festivals and events. Volunteer to get involved or help with publicity if paying for tickets isn’t an option. Go to poetry readings.

Workshop Poems

Accept that editors and competition organisers will be nervous of accepting anything by a known plagiarist. Poems written from scratch and developed within a workshop may lead to an opportunity to gain a sponsor or a mentor prepared to support poems until trust has been earnt again.


Consider working on a sequence of poems with another poet or writing poems in response to artwork or a similar group project.

Plagiarism in poetry is rare. Most people writing poetry do so because they want to communicate something or tell their stories in their own words, not by copying someone else’s. Consequently when plagiarism does occur, it tends to go viral. But rehabilitation is possible if the plagiarist is prepared to put in the work.



5 Responses to “Can a Poetry Plagiarist be Redeemed?”

  1. spakravan Says:

    This is a beautiful–if stern–lesson on the limits of what one is allowed to do and how to make up for trespasses beyond those limits. But one can’t help wanting to know more: Who was the plagiarist, whom did he/she plagiarize? Did he/she repent and become ready to follow the suggested steps to redemption?

  2. emmalee1 Says:

    Hi Saideh Thanks for dropping by and commenting. There’s more on this article here: . The plagiarist concerned has been found out to have plagiarised several more poems and he was taken aback by the strength of the reaction to what he’d done within the poetry community.

  3. iralightman Says:

    Has Christian Ward paid back the £50 he won with Debbie Lim’s poem in the 2009 Bridport prize judged by Carol Ann Duffy since it was exposed 3 months ago? The Bridport website says, as of 18 April, no communication or repayment has been forthcoming from him

  4. emmalee1 Says:

    I don’t have any contact with either the Bridport Prize administrators or Christian Ward so can’t answer your question.

  5. How do you write a poem? Giving credit where it’s due | Emma Lee's Blog Says:

    […] I’ve discussed here ways in which a plagiarist may redeem themselves and re-build broken trust. […]

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