Stealing Words

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When my parents came to visit a few weeks back, Mom brought a book of poetry we’ve had in the family since I was little. It had been in their stuff all this time and she thought my kids would enjoy it. Just seeing the cover brought back a forgotten memory of a time in grade school when I was given an assignment to write a poem on any subject I wanted. At the time I thought I had nothing important to say and couldn’t think of a single original thing to offer, so I plagiarized an entire poem from the book. This makes me ashamed all these years later, especially since I ended up majoring in Creative Writing and have spent much of my adult life tinkering with words in one way or another. But back then, maybe it was 5th or 6th grade, when I decided to cheat rather than be creative, I figured the subject of the poem would have to be a simple one since I was a kid, and the length should be on the short side since I would need to copy the whole thing word for word. I also knew it couldn’t be a famous poem that the teacher would recognize–I would love to hear my logic on that one, all these years later–written by a poet no one had heard of. Again, my selection process was a joke. I was a little mountain kid with zero knowledge of poetry or poets or what the teacher may know about the subject and could’ve just written something of my own in half the time it took to plot and execute my scam. So I chose a shortish poem about birds written by a dude I’d never heard, copying it verbatim for a grade school assignment, leaving in a few words that I would not have known and themes I would not have grasped. The memory of what happened next is fuzzy but I do recall getting a note back from the teacher saying that she doubted that I was the author of the poem I had turned in, but I can’t remember any punishment. So I’ll share the poem, decades later, and give the proper credit. I know now what I didn’t know then: We all have something to write about.

The Eagle

He clasps the crag with hooked hands;

Close to the sun in lonely lands,

Ringed with the azure world, he stands.

 

The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;

He watches from his mountain walls,

And like a thunderbolt he falls.
Lord Alfred Tennyson

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