Puppies Puppies Presents Autumn Space Autumn Space
April 20 - May 11, 2013
Opening Reception: Saturday, April 20, 6-9pm
Artist Lecture: 8pm on the night of the opening
Open Hours: Saturdays 2-5pm
I am Puppies Puppies.
Mary Kay Schnabel
Gaylen Gerber / Conceptual Approaches (Friday class)
Thai Elephant: Wanpen
I am a dog. A mutt to be precise. Therefore I do not speak English so well.
Please read this instead:
What Rhymes With, uh, Plagiarism?
By William Grimes
Published: October 25, 1994
David Sumner is not a famous name in the world of poetry. Neither is he unknown. Like hundreds of other people, he has had reasonable success in placing work in tiny poetry reviews, most of them published at lesser campuses, and from time to time he has managed to break through to midlevel publications.
Mr. Sumner does stand out from the struggling poetry pack in one important respect, however.
He doesn't exist.
For a brief but impressive run that lasted from 1990 to late 1993, 59 poems by "David Sumner" appeared in 36 literary journals, and 12 others had been accepted for publication. That success rate becomes more understandable considering that many of the poems were lifted wholesale from the published work of other poets and simply adorned with new titles.
Mr. Sumner plagiarized the work of at least five poets (only 14 of the 59 poems have been matched with the originals so far), but he specialized in the work of Neal Bowers, a poet and teacher at Iowa State University and until recently the editor of Poet and Critic magazine. And that was his mistake.
In the fall issue of The American Scholar, in an anguished, angry article titled "A Loss for Words: Plagiarism and Silence," Mr. Bowers has outlined his two-year quest to track down Mr. Sumner and put a stop to the man he calls "the Ted Bundy of the poetry world."
Mr. Bowers first learned that his work had been plagiarized in January 1992, when he received a telephone call from Carrie Etter, the editor of Out Loud, a monthly poetry calendar and review in Los Angeles. She informed him that his poem "Tenth-Year Elegy," which had been published in the well-known journal Poetry in September 1990, had shown up, under the title "Someone Forgotten," in the December 1991 issue of the Mankato Poetry Review. The author of the poem was identified as Mr. Sumner, who, the contributor's note stated, lived in Aloha, Ore., and had published poems in the Hawaiian Review, Puerto del Sol and Mississippi Review.
His suspicions aroused, Mr. Bowers enlisted his wife, Nancy, and the two began leafing through stacks of poetry periodicals in his office to see if Mr. Sumner's name turned up. It did.
"I'll bet it wasn't 15 minutes into it before we found the plagiarism of Mark Strand's 'Keeping Things Whole,' a famous poem," Mr. Bowers said in a telephone interview. "We said, 'Uh-oh.' "
Mr. Bowers began calling and writing editors at poetry journals to warn them of possible submissions by Mr. Sumner, and gradually, as he received responses, a dossier began to build, and the facts about the mysterious Mr. Sumner gradually emerged.
The chronology of the plagiarist's activities, assembled by Nancy Bowers, now runs to nearly 60 pages. It begins with the first known poems published under Mr. Sumner's name, in spring 1990, and runs to the fall of 1993, when Mr. Sumner made his last known appearance in print, in Writer's Journal.
A survey of various contributors notes yielded this profile of Mr. Sumner: he was born in Belfast, lived in England until the age of 11, held a master's degree from Pacific University and had studied poetry with William Stafford.
He certainly had made a close study of two short poems by Mr. Bowers, "Tenth-Year Elegy," a tribute to the author's late father, and "R.S.V.P.," a meditation on death. Under various titles, he managed to have them printed in 13 journals and accepted at 6 others, along with poems by Sharon Olds, Marcia Hurlow and Robert Gibb.
"The two poems he stole are very autobiographical, and that's a creepy thing to me," said Mr. Bowers. "It's a very uneasy feeling, a bit like having a stalker."
Along the way, Mr. Sumner took some strange turns. In early 1990, for example, he submitted 10 poems to Mr. Bowers's magazine. All of them were returned with rejection notes. On one occasion, he sent a plagiarized version of "Tenth-Year Elegy" to a journal that had accepted it six months earlier.
In a coup for Mr. Sumner, Whiskey Island Review published, in the same issue, poems by Mr. Sumner and "Diane Compton," a pseudonym he began using toward the end of his spree.
"He's sort of like a young aspiring poet with an M.F.A.," said Mr. Bowers. "He knows the hustle. This may sound cynical, but the system is set up perfectly for him." Like any aspiring poet, Mr. Sumner worked from Poet's Market, a standard guide to the roughly 4,000 magazines that publish poetry, and steadily built up his resume.
Mr. Bowers hired a lawyer, Bruce McKee of Des Moines, and eventually a private detective, to get to the bottom of the mystery. Working from return addresses on Mr. Sumner's submissions to various journals, he found that his plagiarist's real name was David S. Jones, of Aloha, Ore. He was born in 1953, has a bachelor's degree from Southern Illinois University and, indeed, a master's degree from Pacific University. He had taught elementary school in southern Illinois and in Oregon. The rest of the resume was largely faked.
Mr. McKee said the plagiarisms represented a clear-cut case of copyright infringement. Money was not an issue on either side, however. Mr. Bowers said he simply wanted to stop the plagiarism.
For his part, Mr. Jones could not have chosen a less promising route to riches. If they are lucky, contributors to poetry magazines receive a small payment, perhaps $50 or $100. Usually, they get nothing more than a couple of free copies of the issue in which their poem appears.
Using a telephone number supplied by Mr. Bowers's private investigator, Anne Bunch, Mr. McKee called Mr. Jones at home, but a man on the other end of the line convinced him that he had reached the wrong Jones.
Oddly enough, one week later Mr. Bowers received a letter from "David Sumner," with an Odawara, Japan, postmark. In the letter, the man apologized for submitting "Tenth-Year Elegy" and explained that after having studied it in a poetry workshop, he had come to believe it was his own work. "I have read it and recited it many times since, and now I find out that I also took it to be my own," he wrote.
He promised to stop submitting the poem, and he enclosed a $100 money order payable to Mr. Bowers.
In the meantime, Ms. Bunch determined that the man Mr. McKee had been speaking to was none other than David S. Jones, the would-be poet, she said. Acting on the information, Mr. McKee called again. This time, the man admitted his identity and a two-year game of cat and mouse ensued, with Mr. Jones admitting to specific instances of plagiarizing Mr. Bowers's work, though purely by what he called "an accident of process," but neglecting to mention any journal or poem that was not first brought to his attention by Mr. McKee. Mr. Bowers also received abject letters of contrition and more money orders.
"I am sorry for all that I have done against you," one letter read. "In a perfect world, an artist like you -- a creator of beauty -- should never have to come in contact with such an ugliness as me."
Mr. Bowers says he has speculated on his nemesis's motives, without coming up with a convincing theory. "I don't know how much of a rush he gets off the risk," he said. "He upped the ante all the time, starting out publishing in really obscure places, and ending up in very reputable places, good midlevel magazines."
Through his lawyer, Mr. Bowers demanded that Mr. Jones sign a statement admitting his guilt and promising to cease plagiarizing Mr. Bowers's poetry and submitting it for publication. Mr. Jones seemed to be uneasy about signing anything, Mr. McKee said, arguing that a signed statement would leave him open to civil or criminal prosecution.
As the circle tightened around Mr. Jones, he began withdrawing submissions from poetry journals, saying he now realized that the works were unconscious plagiarisms. And then he simply disappeared.
A reporter's letters to Mr. Jones's most recent known addresses went unanswered. In response to a message left on the answering machine of his brother, Patrick Jones of Sumner, Ill. (the probable source of Mr. Jones's pseudonym), a man identifying himself as Patrick Jones said he did not know his brother's whereabouts or how to get in touch with him.
"He could still be operating, simply by mutating new pseudonyms," said Mr. Bowers
Open Hours: Saturdays 2-5pm for the extent of the exhibition