Former Canadian parliamentary poet Pierre DesRuisseaux (centre) has been accused of plagiarizing from poet Maya Angelou (left) and rapper Tupac Shakur (right)

Former Canadian parliamentary poet Pierre DesRuisseaux (centre) has been accused of plagiarizing from poet Maya Angelou (left) and rapper Tupac Shakur (right)
Photo Credit: Steve Exum/Getty Images, Parliament of Canada, Mike Segar/Reuters

Respected Quebec poet accused of plagiarism


In the past, distance, language, and time made it much easier to plagiarise the work of others. For example, one could take the work of someone else in a different language and distant country, translate it to your language and market, and the chance of being discovered was rather slim.

The internet has changed that, and that is how the latest case of alleged high level plagiarism came to light.

Pierre DesRuisseaux was a prolific award winning writer, translator, and poet in Quebec.

Winner of the prestigious Governor-General’s award for French language poetry in 1989, he was Canada’s official Parliamentary poet-laureate from 2009 to 2011.  He was also nominated for the Governor-General’s award for English to French translation in 1996 for his translation of English Canadian poets.   It was perhaps the ability to translate and his wide knowledge of world poetry that got him in trouble and has left a dark cloud hanging over his otherwise prestigious legacy.

The second to last work left by the poet, who died in January of 2016,  was a collection of poems called “Tranches de vie” (Slices of life), but it seems most of them are almost direct translations of well known works by  English writers ranging from Dylan Thomas, to Tupac Shakur.

Tupac ( Sometimes I Cry) “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

DesRuisseaux (When I’m Alone) 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.

The concern of plagiarism was first raised by Ontario poet, Kathy Figueroa, in May of 2016. While online she came across an English translation on a federal government website of DesRuisseaux’s poem “J’avance”, except she recognized it immediately as being very similar to that of American poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou.

Maya Angelou ( I Rise)  “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.”

DesRuisseaux (J’avance) 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.”

She contacted the government with her concern and the poem was removed, but after later mentioning it in an online discussion group, where British-based Ira Lightman, an amateur poetry detective. decided to investigate further.

Ira Lightman, investigated and found many poems by Quebec poet Pierre Desruisseaux bore very close resemblance to those of others.
Ira Lightman investigated and found that many poems by Quebec poet Pierre DesRuisseaux bore very close resemblance to those of others. © Twitter

He worked through all the poems in “Tranches de vie” and found that some 30 of the 50 seemed to be virtual translations of other’s works including Irish poet Louis MacNeice, Charles Bukoski, and Ted Kooser in addition to Thomas, Angelou and also by some amateur poets who had published works online. None of the works were attributed to the original authors.

Dylan Thomas (In the Beginning)  “In the beginning was the three-pointed star,/One smile of light across the empty face/ One bough of bone across the rooting air,”

 DesRuisseaux (In the Beginning) “In the beginning there was the three-pointed star/ A bright smile on an empty face/ A branch of bone in the rooting air”

Since the issue has been made public, Montreal-based publisher Editions du Noroit, has withdrawn the book from sale.

Lightman and others say it is unclear why Des Ruisseaux would have plagiarized the works of others, but a long-time worker at the publishing house said the poet suffered from a degenerative brain disorder in his final years and may have been confused when he submitted work he thought was his own.

additional information- sources

Categories: Arts and Entertainment, International, Society
Tags: , , , , ,

Do you want to report an error or a typo? Click here!

@*@ Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 characters available

Note: By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that Radio Canada International has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Radio Canada International does not endorse any of the views posted. Your comments will be pre-moderated and published if they meet netiquette guidelines.

Netiquette »

When you express your personal opinion in an online forum, you must be as courteous as if you were speaking with someone face-to-face. Insults and personal attacks will not be tolerated. To disagree with an opinion, an idea or an event is one thing, but to show disrespect for other people is quite another. Great minds don’t always think alike—and that’s precisely what makes online dialogue so interesting and valuable.

Netiquette is the set of rules of conduct governing how you should behave when communicating via the Internet. Before you post a message to a blog or forum, it’s important to read and understand these rules. Otherwise, you may be banned from posting.

  1.’s online forums are not anonymous. Users must register, and give their full name and place of residence, which are displayed alongside each of their comments. reserves the right not to publish comments if there is any doubt as to the identity of their author.
  2. Assuming the identity of another person with intent to mislead or cause harm is a serious infraction that may result in the offender being banned.
  3.’s online forums are open to everyone, without regard to age, ethnic origin, religion, gender or sexual orientation.
  4. Comments that are defamatory, hateful, racist, xenophobic, sexist, or that disparage an ethnic origin, religious affiliation or age group will not be published.
  5. In online speak, writing in ALL CAPS is considered yelling, and may be interpreted as aggressive behaviour, which is unpleasant for the people reading. Any message containing one or more words in all caps (except for initialisms and acronyms) will be rejected, as will any message containing one or more words in bold, italic or underlined characters.
  6. Use of vulgar, obscene or objectionable language is prohibited. Forums are public places and your comments could offend some users. People who use inappropriate language will be banned.
  7. Mutual respect is essential among users. Insulting, threatening or harassing another user is prohibited. You can express your disagreement with an idea without attacking anyone.
  8. Exchanging arguments and opposing views is a key component of healthy debate, but it should not turn into a dialogue or private discussion between two users who address each other without regard for the other participants. Messages of this type will not be posted.
  9. Radio Canada International publishes contents in five languages. The language used in the forums has to be the same as the contents we publish or in one of the two official languages, English or French. The usage of other languages, with the exception of some words, is forbidden. Messages that are off-topic will not be published.
  10. Making repetitive posts disrupts the flow of discussions and will not be tolerated.
  11. Adding images or any other type of file to comments is forbidden. Including hyperlinks to other websites is allowed, as long as they comply with netiquette. Radio Canada International  is in no way responsible for the content of such sites, however.
  12. Copying and pasting text written by someone else, even if you credit the author, is unacceptable if that text makes up the majority of your comment.
  13. Posting any type of advertising or call to action, in any form, to Radio Canada International  forums is prohibited.
  14. All comments and other types of content are moderated before publication. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to refuse any comment for publication.
  15. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to close a forum at any time, without notice.
  16. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to amend this code of conduct (netiquette) at any time, without notice.
  17. By participating in its online forums, you allow Radio Canada International to publish your comments on the web for an indefinite time. This also implies that these messages will be indexed by Internet search engines.
  18. Radio Canada International has no obligation to remove your messages from the web if one day you request it. We invite you to carefully consider your comments and the consequences of their posting.