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Former Canadian poet laureate Pierre DesRuisseaux accused of plagiarizing Angelou, Bukowski

The writing of the late poet Pierre DesRuisseaux, who served as Canada’s poet laureate from April 2009 to 2011, is under examination after U.K.-based “poetry sleuth” Ira Lightman revealed a number of similarities between DesRuisseaux’s 2013 collection, Tranches de vie and the work of Maya Angelou, Charles Bukowski, Dylan Thomas, and even Tupac Shakur. Lightman was first tipped off by Ontario writer Kathy Figueroa in a plagiarism Facebook group.

Lightman’s investigation into the matter was first reported in The Guardian on Sept. 9, where he cited the following lines from DesRuisseux’s “J’avance,” translated to English:

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.

An excerpt from Angelou’s “Still I Rise” reads:

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.

DesRuisseux’s publisher, Montreal’s Éditions du Noroît, told the CBC that a degenerative brain disorder the author suffered in his final years may have led to some “confusion” when writing and submitting work. Tranches de vie has since been removed from shelves. DesRuisseux died in 2016.