I wrote a "take-off" on a French song using a technique that I believe is called "parallel construction."


In English, the original begins, "Me, me I am a man. And you, you are music." My version closely parallels this: "She, she is a woman. And me I am just a rustic" (peasant).

Is this technique used a lot in poetry? Is it considered a form of plagiarism? I'm writing "original" thoughts, but using someone else's template, especially in a language in which I am not fluent.

2 Answers 2


If you're writing this as a pastiche - an original work which closely resembles some specific author's style - something that "they could have written", you're clean: style is not copyrightable. Of course this must be entirely original work, which may use similar construction - similar metaphors, same meter, the same stylistic tools but entirely original content, you're fine - it's a well known technique used either humorously or just to show skill, as an exercise, or even to convey a specific message by emulating given author commonly associated with something you want to convey. You don't really have to credit anyone - guessing the name of the author you're emulating is often an exercise to your readers - but don't deny it's a pastiche.

If you're creating a parody - your work is a humorous variation of the original - then, at least according to US law, it's fair use - and extremely common.

If you're merely copying given construction though, using its ideas to write your own, you're moving very close to plagiarism. Of course you can create a clearly derivative work, a remix - but in this case you must obtain copyright holder's permission/license to release it, and obviously crediting the original will be required.

  • I'd call it a "pastiche," as opposed to mere copying.
    – Tom Au
    Apr 4, 2013 at 15:11

In reverse order:

As far as plagiarism, it depends on what you're doing with your take-off. Is it mean to be performed in public? Are you trying to get a recording contract? Does the music of yours sound the same note-for-note as the original? Is the original copyrighted? Do the monetary rights belong to a composer? Then you're veering into copyright territory, and I'd consult a lawyer. If it's just for you, don't sweat it — it's sort of "fan fiction." (Or parody, but that's an entirely different kettle of fish.)

Whether that structure is used a lot in poetry I have no idea, because poetry is a vast ocean spanning languages, cultures, and millennia. It's like asking "are there a lot of sonnets?" Well... yes and no. Shakespeare wrote a lot of them; not many people are writing them today. Does it matter?

  • 1
    For now, it's "fan fiction," written to a woman I once dated. My poem does "sing" to the original music. If I wanted it performed in public, I'd try to license the rights to the music, or hire a lawyer to do whatever else I needed to do to "make it right."
    – Tom Au
    Apr 4, 2013 at 15:10

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.