Over seventy authors, including Pulitzer Prize winners Jennifer Egan and Louise Glück, have signed a letter to the New York Times in support of poet and novelist Jill Bialosky, after William Logan accused her of ‘serial plagerism’ in her book Poetry Will Save Your Life: A Memoir.
Logan’s positively vicious review of Bialosky’s book in the Tourniquet Review highlights several passages dealing with poet biographies, where he feels she has directly plagiarism from sources such as Wikipedia the websites of the Academy of American Poets and the Poetry Foundation. In the review, he lays out paragraphs from the book against paragraphs from the websites, highlighting the similarities and slight changes, saying “Many of Bialosky’s changes here and elsewhere… are the slight, guilty revisions of the serial plagiarist.” His comments were repeated in a New York Times article.
Bialosky, who was honored by the Poetry Society of America in 2014, is a poet, novelist, as well as an editor at WW Norton. Simon & Schuster, who published the book, referred to Bialosky as “a highly regarded editor and author.” They said they “stand by the book and are ready to work with the author to make any necessary corrections for future editions,” it said. Bialosky herself released a statement saying
William Logan has extracted a few ancillary and limited phrases from my 222-page memoir that inadvertently include fragments of prior common biographical sources and tropes after a multi-year writing process. This should not distract from the thesis of this book, which derives from my own life, my experiences and observations.”
Seventy-two authors added their names to the letter in defense of Bialosky. In the letter, they express concern that “by giving a large platform to a small offence” they had “tainted the reputation of this accomplished editor, poet and memoirist.”
Kimiko Hahn and David Baker who wrote the letter have both been edited by Bialosky. Pulitzer prize winners Jennifer Egan and Louise Glück also signed it. The authors stated that
Given the trust that is assumed between a writer and her readers, this mishandling is not something to shrug off. Yet it bears saying that Ms Bialosky’s inadvertent repetition of biographical boilerplate was not an egregious theft intentionally performed. They say that they “stand with Ms Bialosky and her statement of apology” and that “it would be a terrible disservice to Ms Bialosky and to your readers if the article kept people from appreciating her substantial contributions to American letters.
Featured Image Via The Los Angeles Review of Books