Andrew Slattery, a rising Australian poet, won the Rosemary Dobson Prize in 2010 for a poem with powerful lines such as "bruised like a forceps baby"; "You keep old roads open by driving on the new ones" and "Death will come quickly like a cat jumping onto the bed".
There was one problem: the lines were written by the late Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney and the American Beat poet Charles Bukowski.
Slattery was recently stripped of two other prizes after being found to have plagiarised dozens of poets including Emily Dickinson and Sylvia Plath.
His daring deception is the tip of a worldwide epidemic of poetic plagiarism, partly driven by the increasing use of "sampling" in the arts, and by the ease of cutting and pasting poems on the internet, which also makes plagiarism easy to detect.
Graham Nunn, who was a respected Brisbane poet and organiser of the Queensland Poetry Festival, has been exposed as another serial plagiarist, with his published poem Fortune a near-copy of Philosopher's Stone by an acclaimed Canadian poet, Don McKay.
Two British poets, David R. Morgan and Christian Ward, were exposed this year as prolific plagiarists, while another British poet, Ira Lightman, has been dubbed "the poetry sleuth" for his dogged search for offenders.
Slattery said he wrote his poems using lines from other poets as "a cynical experiment" similar to the hoax poet Ern Malley created by Harold Stewart and James McAuley in 1943.
He claims his poems are in the "Cento format", which is a collage of lines from other poems. But in proper use poets credit their sources. "I should have disclaimed on the entry forms that the poems were in the Cento format," he said. "I should have included footnotes for these poems. I do not support any use of someone's else's work, in any form of presentation, or in any medium, unless it is clearly acknowledged."
A poet and screenwriter from Newcastle, Slattery has won or been commended in more than 30 poetry prizes in Australia and Britain, and won an Awgie for a short film script in 2007. He received thousands of dollars in poetry prizemoney, and two Australia Council grants in 2008 and 2010, each worth $15,000.
His website quotes praise from distinguished Australians such as composer Peter Sculthorpe and poet Peter Porter, who described Slattery as "a new and original talent”. In May he was named as the winner of Griffith University's Josephine Ulrick Poetry Prize.
On hearing Slattery read his winning poem, Ransom, poet Anthony Lawrence "felt something was not right" when he recognised lines by the American poet Billy Collins.
With one of the Ulrick judges, Margie Cronin, Lawrence began to Google passages from Ransom. They found about 80 per cent of the long poem was made up of 50-odd poets' work, some of them famous, such as Americans Charles Simic and Robert Bly, and one Australian, Chris Andrews.
Slattery was disqualified before receiving the $10,000 prizemoney. Griffith University's lawyers decided he had breached the conditions that work must be original and not composed substantially of other authors' work, "whether or not they are disposed in a new form or order".
Lawrence, Cronin and another poet, David Musgrave, spent weeks searching the internet and compiled a footnoted dossier of evidence showing most of Slattery's work was not his own. An entire poem was lifted from the philosopher Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil.
In June, Slattery was chosen as winner of the £5000 first prize in the Cardiff International Poetry Competition, whose judges included former British poet laureate Andrew Motion.
The judges disqualified Slattery after the Australian investigations showed his poem was almost identical to another he had submitted to the Australian journal Meanjin, and contained lines from songwriter Tom Waits, 17 other poets and his own poem Ransom.
Lawrence, Cronin and another poet, David Musgrave, want to expose a problem they believe is much more extensive than a couple of plagiarists and is damaging the reputation of Australian poetry.
They said in a statement to Fairfax Media: "Serial plagiarism seems to imply a lack of empathy and, in extreme cases, something like sociopathy.
When exposed, some plagiarists say they are simply paying homage to other writers or use words like 'collage', 'cento' or 'sampling'. It seems that, even when the game is up and the evidence is irrefutable, the word 'plagiarism' just can't be uttered."