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Rhyme and Misdemeanors

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Dec. 7th, 2015 | 12:55 pm

As a freelance editor, I frequently hear from authors who are worried that if they join a writing group, show their manuscript to an editor, or submit it to an agent, their words will be stolen.

American authors often put a copyright notice on their work, which is usually unnecessary before publication—a written work is under copyright from the moment it’s created in a ‘fixed form,’ with or without the circled C, and with or without registration of the copyright.

While after-publication theft is a growing problem in self-published romance novels (thieves download a PDF, retitle, and re-list it as their own work), it’s unheard-of for a legit industry professional to plagiarize an author’s work. Generally, if someone likes a book enough to want to sell it, they’ll go ahead and work with the author—it’s a lot less hassle. If they're in business to rip you off, they want your money, not your book.

Still, sharing your work with a stranger requires a measure of trust, and some authors are wary.

To those authors, I dedicate this poem.

I steal every poem I see with no copyright note.
I print them on bathroom walls with black markers.
I recite them aloud at weddings when the priest asks if anyone here objects.
I inscribe them on prayer bells and ring them to Heaven for the Buddha.
And I never, ever credit the author.

I steal every poem I see by an unknown author,
smothering their feeble protests with my literary might.
I sell them on corners in inner cities. If a slumming suburbanite in a white SUV pulls up and gives me a twenty, a little kid on the next corner will run out and recite a sestina or haiku.
I mutter them sullenly to cops who ask if I know why they're talking to me today.
Authors who fail to circle-c turn corners to find their work staring down from forty-foot vodka advertisements,
while I get rich on the proceeds and never feel guilt.

When the cab driver asks, where to? I tell him in your trochees
I cram couplets into hopscotch rhymes.
At parties I whisper assonance into the ears of strangers,
Use your words to hook up in the guest bathroom.
Before Mass, I confess your poem.

I used your poem on Craigslist to freecycle my old loveseat,
Covering the stains with metaphors.
The slant rhyme did justice to the blue velour cover. Without your poem
I surely would not have been offered a crockpot in exchange,
I would not now be dining on the slow-cooked iambs of your sonnet
Sucking carefully considered anaphora from the bones.

Whipchick had a great time looking up poetic terms. Her favorite is zeugma.


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Comments {63}


Re: Copyright

from: whipchick
date: Dec. 9th, 2015 10:30 am (UTC)

So true! I wish more people knew about that.

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