The H Case

How Dozens of Poets Fell Prey to a Plagiarist

By Ton van ’t Hof

Note: I wrote this article a couple of years ago, but for some reason never published it before. I changed a few words here and there.

The discovery

On 16 March 2005 I was working on a translation of Irish poet Roisin Tierney’s prize-winning poem “Becoming.” Looking for an accurate translation I googled the unusual word “Ur-feather” from “Becoming’s” first line. I was surprised to find among the search results a poem that was very similar to Tierney’s verse. It was entitled “Prehistoric Presence,” and one of five poems published in US webzine PW Review, issue 19, Fall 2004, written by someone named “Amari Hamadene.”

To date there is no certainty about the true identity of “Amari Hamadene.” In order to hurt no one’s feelings, I will refer in the continuation of this article with “H” to the supposed author of the plagiarized poems.

A comparison showed that Tierney’s and H’s poems only differed in title, division into stanzas, and geographical names. The first eight lines of Tierney’s and H’s poems read respectively:

On finding that first imprint of the Ur-feather
in the lithographic limestone strata
of Solnhofen, central Bavaria,
those quarry workers and stonecutters
did not think of the Late Jurassic
but saw the hundred and fifty
million year old solitary feather
as ‘the remains of an angel’.

On finding that first imprint of the Ur-feather
in the lithographic limestone strata
of Aïn-Sefra, central Algerian Erg,
those quarry workers and stonecutters
did not think of the Late Jurassic
but saw the hundred and fifty
million year old solitary feather
as ‘the remains of an angel’.

Being in the dark about who was actually plagiarizing, I started googling H’s other poems in PW Review and discovered in short time three more clear cases of plagiarism. “Mythological Decisions” was very similar to Australian Stephen Oliver’s poem “A Simple Tale,” “The Logic” to UK Kate Clanchy’s poem “Not Art,” and “The Big Burst” to UK Jules Webster’s poem “Alchemy.” Four out of five. And it being most unlikely that four poets would in chorus plagiarize from H’s work (Tierney’s and Webster’s poems were both published in Poems For A Better Future, featuring the best poems submitted to the UK Oxfam Poetry Competition, 2004), I concluded that it was highly likely that H was the actual plagiarist.

Get the ball rolling

Since H’s email address was at the bottom of the PW page, I decided to confront H with the findings and sent him on 16 March the very first email. In addition to this I informed the editorial staff of PW Review and some of the poets involved.

In expectation of answers, six more plagiarized poems were found in online magazines Subtle (US) and The Redbridge Review (UK). I posted the research results on my personal weblog 1hundred1 and warned more editors and plagiarized poets. The following days the affair gained momentum. With the help of search engines the extent of the fraud became gradually clear. The news spread quickly by email among those who were harmed.

In the meantime H didn’t react to emails sent to him by me and several others. All that was known of H at this point emerged out of biographies that were frequently found below his poems. One of the largest biographies was published in Australian Retort Magazine, from which the first part reads as follows:

“Amari Hamadene born July 16, 1968 to Chlef, Algeria – By the help of Mrs. Simone Balazard, editor in chief of the magazine LE JARDIN D’ESSAI to Paris and vice-president of the French Writer Union, he is becomes member of this organization in 2002. – He is also member and delegate-maghreb of the SJE (Union of Journalists and Writers) since 2001. This international organization installed in Paris, activate in all domains of the literature – member also since 1999 of the Algerian writer union he directs currently the Press & Communication ARABESQUE that he founded in 1999, and the magazine of literary creation ARABESQUES.”

It is followed by a list of H’s last publications in magazines. Given the poor English it is quite likely that the text was borrowed unaltered from H’s query letter.

One week of research

After one week of research more than eighty poems of H, published in numerous English-language online and printed literary magazines, were traced. Twenty-four of these poems turned out to be plagiarized from other people’s work. On various occasions H had offered his poems both in an English and a French version. From a number of plagiarized, originally English-language poems a French version is known. In these cases the French versions must have been translated from English into French, most probable to prove authenticity. An example of this is H’s poem “The Golden Cupolas,” that was published in several web-based magazines. Below the reader will first find the original poem, “Dome” by Ranjit Hoskote, and then H’s English and French version.


for Masud

Dates never change
on the calendar of faith

but light and wind are playing tricks
with the past.

Words split like isotopes
in this peacetime landscape

of abandoned courtyards, empty cradles,
withered gardens and broken roofs.

Only the madman, in his garland of dried flowers,
has the right of passage here

and the blind beggar who recollects nothing
except the spider ticking in his wired skull.

For a second, between two versions
of an echo, the past doesn’t happen:

the dome remains, a roc’s egg
veined blue, shelled by wind.

to no crime of identity.

Wait until the quillotine falls
in the vast silence of the heart.

The Golden Cupolas

Statistics never change on the calender of trust
but clouds and wind are playing at sleight-of-hand
with the souvenirs.

Words split like isotopes
in this peacetime parcel of earth
of deserted squares, blank bowers,
withered gardens and broken roofs.

Only the madman, in this garland of dried daisies,
has the permit of crossing here
and the blind beggar who recollects nothing
except the spider ticking in his wired skull.

For a second, between two versions
of a richochet, the times of yore doesn’t happen:
the golden cupola remains, a roc’s egg
veined blue, shelled by sirocco.
to no crime of identity.
Wait until the guillotine falls

in the vast silence of the heart.

Les Coupoles Dorees

Les statistiques n’ont pas changé au calendrier de la confiance
quoique les nuages et le vent continuent à jouer à leurs tours
de passe-passe avec les souvenirs.

Les mots se sont fissionnés comme des isotopes
dans ce fragment de terre en temps de paix
de squares déserts, de vierges chaumières,
de jardins flétris et de délabrées toitures.

Seul le fou, en son auréole de maguerites desséchées,
a le droit de passage en ces rivages
ainsi que l’amblyope mendiant qui ne se souvient de rien
que de la toile d’araignée barbelée au fond de son crâne.

Pendant une seconde, entre deux bonds
d’un richochet, l’histoire antique ne s’est pas manifestée:
les vestiges de la coupole dorée, oeufs du roc
striés en azur, que le sirocco a éclot.
Se confessent
d’aucun crime d’identité.
Attendant jusqu’à ce que la guillotine choit

dans le vaste silence du coeur.

During the first week I had contacted Ronnie Pontiac, Poet in Residence for US Newtopia Magazine and, as advertised in the online magazine, translator of the poetry collection The New Caesars and the New Caliphs by Algerian poet Amari Hamadene, that would be released by US Elik Press in 2005. In Newtopia Magazine number 18 (Fall 2004) six of H’s poems were published, “transliterated” by Pontiac. I had questioned Pontiac’s role in one of my early weblog updates on the affair – unjust as it turned out soon after.

In his answer to my questions Pontiac explained that “Newtopia received an email containing several poems by Amari Hamadene badly translated from French into English.” Pontiac “did hasty revions” to meet the editorial deadline. After H’s poems were published in Newtopia they were brought to the attention of Elik Press. The editor in chief of Elik Press declared that he would like to publish a collection of H’s poems. “So I wrote Amari Hamadene at the email provided for Newtopia,” said Pontiac, “and received in return 25 poems in French. I translated 22 of them.” To date the collection has never been published. Seven of these twenty-two poems are now known to be plagiarism. Pontiac started at this point his own investigation. He published the results in an article that was put online in Newtopia on 11 April 2005.

Word from Algeria

On Wednesday 23 March 2005 I received an email from someone claiming to be “Hamadene Amari” (the other way around), from Chlef, Algeria, who was alerted by one of his friends to “the great masquerade and party […] organised against my person.” The message didn’t hold clear answers to the questions asked earlier by me. But this person, that we will keep calling H, did not deny any involvement in the matter. In fact he confirmed to be the author of a part of the poems published under the name of “ Amari Hamadene,” but not of the plagiarized poems. He had no explanation how these plagiarized poems turned up among his own poems and suggested that I might know:

“And as I noticed it has a real setgame of texts and of words which imbricates some of my ancient, and recent texts I sent to some publications, with the texts of other poets you cited, I do not dismiss any assumption as for your participation in this orgy and hunting thoroughly organized on large scale, against my person, and I could not even doubt that you are perhaps the instigator or one of the instigators of this joke.”

I aked H promptly a number of questions to further clarify matters. In the following days several emails were exchanged between H and me. H never responded to the questions asked and kept on denying to be responsible for the plagiarism.

“I am asking you initially to be completely sure before affirming anything because according to experts whom I consulted in Algeria everyone is maybe the responsible and at the origin of a such game on Internet. Be at least realistic a moment, it’s all my literary career which is concerned here and I don’t want, just because a parano have his mysterious reasons, loose my personality.”

On Sunday 3 April 2005, two and a half weeks after the discovery, I, frustrated with the inability to get at the truth, chose to finish the correspondence with H:

“Dear Mr Hamadene, I’m just a passer-by, who by accident discovered the plagiarism. I was shocked, angry, and decided to further investigate the case. The internet turned out to be a virtual world in which it is impossible to determine the truth. I changed the blog to a simple statement about the facts I found. I regard this case as closed.”

The full scope

  • In total 98 different poems signed by “Amari Hamadene” were traced in query letters and online publications.
  • 84 of these 98 poems were actual published in online and printed English-language literary magazines. A number of poems was printed in more than one magazine. In total 200 publications of H’s poems were found.
  • 45 of these 98 poems are indisputable plagiarism. 38 of them were published 108 times in various online and printed literary magazines, including: The 13th Warrior Review, The Aurora Review, Big Bridge, Birmingham Words, Carnelian, Canopic Jar, Convergence, Eclectica Journal, Evasion, The Fifth Street Review, The Fossil Record, Get Underground, The God Particle, The HyperTexts, Iodine Poetry Journal, The Journal of Modern Post, Literati Magazine, Megaera, The Mississippi Review, Newtopia Magazine, The Pedestal Magazine, Poetic Voices, Poetry Chain, Political Affairs, PW Review, The Ravenna Hotel, The Redbridge Review, Retort Magazine, Riot Angel Litzine, SacyVox(Dot)Com, Seneca Review, Sentinel Poetry, The Shore Magazine, Subtle, Tamafyhr Mountain Poetry, Über, VLQ, Voices Literary Magazine, Whimperbang, Words and Pictures.
  • The 45 plagiarized poems are:
    • “The Locust’s Vocabularies / A Sequence / 2 To Yasin Taha Hafiz” by Robert Bohm as “The Hanging Gardens”
    • “The Locust’s Vocabularies / A Sequence / 7 Dawn Voice” by Robert Bohm as “The Aurora Zephyr”
    • “Tuatara” by Nola Borrell as “Humanity”
    • “Movie – part 7” by Alan Brunton as “Revolutionary Women”
    • “Divination” by Terry Bowden as “And the New Caliphs”
    • “Hidden Door” by Jared Carter as “Books”
    • “Not Art” by Kate Clanchy as “The Logic”
    • “Another Soldier” by Sallie Cooper as “The 1001nd Soldier”
    • “O Globo” by Kim Hastings as “Misery”
    • “London Pastoral” by Tobias Hill as “The Freedom Song”
    • “Gene Genie” by Emily Hinshelwood as “Cloning”
    • “Poetics” by Paul Hoover as “Resolutions”
    • “Dome” by Ranjit Hoskote as “The Golden Cupolas”
    • “Footage for a trance” by Ranjit Hoskote as “After Your Sickness … What Remains”
    • “Golden orioles” by Ranjit Hoskote as “Yellow Sparrowhawk”
    • “The orientalist” by Ranjit Hoskote as “Sylvan Exoticism”
    • “ This Morning” by Sarah Jones as “Today”
    • “A Farewell To Friends / I. Paul Celan” by Ilya Kaminsky as “As a Lover”
    • “An Old Mark Anthony in an Ybor City Bar” by Duane Locke as “The New Ceasars”
    • “24, rue de Cotte” by Nessa O’Mahony as “Paris Follie’s”
    • “Asylum Seeker” by Jo Mazelis as “For the Freedom’s Wilt”
    • “Depth of Field” by Stephanie de Montalk as “Reporters”
    • “The Retired Barrister” by Stephanie de Montalk as “Persucution Mania”
    • “On Having Enough Hope” by Helen Moore as “Tomorrow Hopes”
    • “The Rest of Us” by Jude Nutter as “Usual Suspect”
    • “A Simple Tale” by Stephen Oliver as “Mythological Decisions”
    • “Old Man” by Marie St. Onge-Davidson as “Wilted Angels”
    • “River Dart Community Poem” by Alice Oswald as “Dangerous Games”
    • “Time” by Alice Oswald as “Apheresis”
    • “Summer” by Deryn Rees-Jones as “Spring”
    • “Random Violence” by Ingrid Riley as “Self-Guided Projects”
    • “A cold room in Granada” by Peter Riley as “Granada Square”
    • “The Wineglass” by Maurice Riordan as “An Instant Love”
    • “Afternoon Nap” by David Shumate as “The Plastic Eden”
    • “Fanatical Proposition” by Philip H. Simmons as “Global Eclipse”
    • “Room with a view” by Barbara Strang as “A Room with a View”
    • “The Sacrifice – part II” by Sean Street as “Sorry Missiles”
    • “The Sacrifice – part III and IV” by Sean Street as “The Moon / Pretty Redhead”
    • “Hollow Ones” by Su’Ratt as “Apocalypse”
    • “Protect and Survive” by Michael Symmonds Roberts as “Middle-Age”
    • “The boredom artist” by Jeet Thayil as “The Dark Angel”
    • “Diminished Octave” by Alys Thorpe as “The Labyrinth Hours”
    • “Becoming” by Roisin Tierney as “Prehistoric Presence”
    • “A Siberian Cold Front Takes Over the Last Week of April” by Pamela Uschuk as “Taboo Frontlines”
    • “Alchemy” by Jules Webster as “The Big Burst”

Questions remaining

In a period of almost a year H succeeded in getting “his” poems published two hundred times in more than forty magazines. After the disclosure of the fraud new publications were seen in only a few cases, most probably from query letters send before the turmoil. The motive remains unclear. In at least one case H got paid for the publication of poems. A few times he has been asked to become the North-African correspondent for a magazine.

The first plagiarized poems H offered differ more from the original poems than the ones offered later on. The latest plagiarized poems vary at times only in title from the original. It is also remarkable that editors apparently didn’t notice the often striking distinction between the poor use of English by H in his covering letters and the poems presented.

The English used in a substantial part of the poems that could not be determined as plagiarism is of such high standards that more fraud must be feared. The poem “Raison d’Être”, an Italianate sonnet, is a case in point.

Raison d’Être

You’d think statistics would console the heart;
Where love is bound to fail (such is the norm),
It’s all in line with customary form
That what we’ve built together falls apart;
We’ll look to science, now we’ve lost the art.
Perhaps, like cattle huddled in a storm,
Close likeness to the herd will keep us warm
When plotted near the cluster on a chart.

And as there’s no device to measure hope,
For clarity we’ll simply rule it out;
Regret as well, and other such errata.
Results require a limiting of scope.
Remembered kindness, tears, the touch of doubt…
What is all that but nonessential data?

After the discovery many web-based magazines removed H’s poems and apologized publicly. The extent, easiness, and swiftness of the fraud are astonishing and, true, largely been made possible by the internet. But not without H’s misbehaving mind.

(Dit bericht verscheen eerder, op 12-04-2014, op