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Dear Ms Cope,

I read your small article in the Guardian on Saturday and found it to be a very mean-spirited piece.  You argue that we should not reproduce poems on the internet as they rob you, the poet, of your rightful royalties.  You go further and say that we should not copy your poems for our friends, nor should we lend them to other people. 

Legally, technically, you have a point and I am sorry that you are not better paid for your work as a poet.  I suppose the market sets the rate that you are worth and the market does not value poetry very highly until the poet has died and then only after several years.  That is sad, but hardly the fault of the people who like your poetry enough to want to publish it again on the internet.

A few weeks ago I went to a poetry reading by a Palestinian poet.  He read his poems in Arabic and afterwards his translator read them in English.  One particular poem caused the audience to collectively weep and the applause was more than any other poet had received at this festival ever.  Afterwards I bought his book – as you tell me I should – but the poem was a recent one and not in any collection yet.  I asked his translator-poet where I might find a copy.  He gave me the address of the website of an American poetry festival where the poem was premiered.  I reproduced the poem on my blog and many of my friends who read my blog said that it moved them to tears.  My husband told our daughter’s English teacher about the poem, and sent her a copy of the poem and my introduction to the poet.  She showed it to all the other English teachers at the school, and some – perhaps all – chose to interrupt their lesson plans to read it to their pupils.  Our daughter came home and told us that her (male) English teacher had read out the poem and the introduction written by my husband…  The poem is about forgiveness.

So that poem has reached many people.  I do not think a single one of the people who has read that poem as a result of the translator giving me the website address would ever have heard of the poet otherwise, let alone read the poem.  If none of these people would even have heard of the poet, it is impossible that they would have bought his book.  As it is, literally hundreds of people have been prompted to think about forgiveness and revenge is a new way, and perhaps some will go out and buy his book to read more of his poems.  But I hope he would value the influence he has had on people’s thinking more than the possible royalties foregone, presuming he has enough to live by, of course.

I, however, am less inclined to read your poems now, and cannot, of course, print one here to encourage other people to read them either.

New & Selected Poems (With a Story) 1971-2005