Famous Canadian Poet Laureate Accused Of Plagiarizing Tupac Shakur, Maya Angelou

Photo courtesy of Hip-Hop Archives.

Canadian poet laureate Pierre DesRuisseaux has been accused of plagiarizing a number of poets such as Dylan Thomas and Maya Angelou, as well as rapper Tupac Shakur.

In a report from the Guardian, poet Ira Lightman was first tipped off about DesRuisseaux’s possible plagiarism through a Facebook group called Plagiarism Alerts, where a woman named Kathy Figueroa had posted a link with the following comment: “It appears that one of Canada’s former poet laureates has plagiarised a poem by Maya Angelou.”

Source: Facebook

The link led to the Canadian government web page where a poem titled “I Rise” written by DesRuisseaux was selected to honor the poet’s memory (he passed away in 2016). However, after comparing the English translation of “I Rise” to Angelou’s “Still I Rise,” Lightman downloaded a PDF of the book where DesRuisseaux’s poem came from and discovered that a number of other poems had been stolen and unaccredited to the original writers. However, DesRuisseaux was likely never caught because he translated these works to French.

Although some have argued the poet laureate was practicing intertextuality — when a poet or writer references another work inside of a work — some disagree, saying that the DesRuisseaux’s case is a “blatant disregard” for other writers.

“It’s sleazy, you know,” Figueroa said. “It just boggles the mind that this fellow was so arrogant, so sure of himself that he thought he could get away with it.”

Tranches de vie, the publisher who released the book of poems in question, no longer sells the book but has yet to release a public statement about the issue. Lightman brought the issue to the publishing company’s attention last year after he learned of the apparent plagiarism.

Check out comparisons to DesRuisseaux’s poems below, including “I Rise” and “When I’m Alone,” the latter of which is reminiscent of Shakur’s “Sometimes I Cry.”

Sometimes I Cry (by Tupac)
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 (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.

Still I Rise (by Angelou)
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

I Rise (DesRuisseaux)
You can wipe me from the pages of history
with your twisted falsehoods
you can drag me through the mud
but like the wind, I rise.


Elijah C. Watson

Elijah Watson serves as Okayplayer's News & Culture Editor. When he's not writing he's listening to Sade and crying or watching My Hero Academia with his partner.

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Elijah C. Watson

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