One of the joys and pains of authorship is finding yourself in print. Of course, it is a joy when you have slaved over a manuscript and seen it through to publication. Nothing compares to the moment a new book comes out or a poem appears in a magazine.
But is it vain or is it just necessary to occasionally search for yourself? I mean when you get that itch to Google your name. Is it a bad thing? Today’s experience tells me it is necessary, and this isn’t the first time this has happened to me… The good news is, I found myself. I just didn’t know where I had gone.
On a happy note, Google Books came up with a reference to my translation of a poem by Paul Snoek that is quoted in A Literary History of the Low Countries. You’ve got to love that. Not only does it help promote Paul Snoek, whose collected poems I spent many years with and would still like to publish more of in translation, but it is a scholarly use of my book Hercules, Richelieu, and Nostradamus. Now who could complain about that?
It was a little more unsettling, though, to find two of my translations of poems by Luke Gruuwez and Charles Ducal on a blog that I didn’t know about. On the one hand, I’m honored to have been included. On the other hand, this is use of copyrighted material without my permission. Now, since I wouldn’t expect to be paid for a blog publication, and these are not translations of poems that I am actively trying to publish elsewhere, I simply wrote the publisher of the blog to request that they ask for permission before they make an further use of these or other translations of mine. I thanked them for considering my work, and suggested some other poets whose work I have translated, so perhaps something good will come of it after all. And it is nice to see my name in print (or pixels) and be recognized as a translator.
Still, it does give you pause. If you are a writer and you have published work, it may not be vain to Google yourself. It is probably a habit we all need to get into, if for no other reason than the protection of our copyright. Of course, in this case, I’m more concerned that there was a publication that I didn’t know about than with any loss of value. However, if I were trying to publish these poems in a magazine, then publication online might make that impossible. An author or translator needs to be informed when his or her work is being used (unless it is fair use, such as quoting a passage).
I’ve heard horror stories of poets who have found their work plagiarized — published under someone else’s name. Maybe we should all Google more than just our names. So the next time you ask me if I Google myself, don’t be surprised if I answer: “Yes, as often as possible!”