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Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Without A Padel

The news that Ruth Padel has resigned from the position of Oxford's Professor of Poetry - after only holding this most-honoured post for a week or so - is sad enough. But seeing how the media has - as if this was a replay of Frost/Nixon - hounded a serious poet out of a serious house - makes it bad, too. Eyewear believes Padel, once appointed, should have been allowed to remain. While I think it was low to send out anonymous packages smearing Walcott, it is also clear Padel herself did not do this; and, it is also clear that Walcott's academic misconduct was documented and real. Why shouldn't a man or woman worried about harassment be able to mention this openly? There is something loathsome about the way a bunch of eminent older male establishment figures from broadcasting and academia began to pile on the abuse - against Padel, the brilliant poet, not against the allegedly-predatory older poet.

The media fuelled this crisis. It escalated because - almost uniquely for poetry in the UK - it was on the front pages for the last few days. Eyewear believes that, should journalists cover poetry more closely, they'd realise a lot of its doings are sub-Nixonian in terms of deals and secret agreements and other carrying on (a lot of backs get mutually scratched, a lot of people get blackballed) - but it seems a bit rich to start now, and act as if Padel was the first, or worst. Perhaps her crime was hubris. The literary types who run the show in London don't like people climbing above their station. Padel knocked out Faber's big boy, and that must have made a few people wince. Now, where are we? Oxford has lost out on two superb candidates - okay, perhaps flawed as humans, but not as poets - and what started so well has become a second-rate Greek tragedy.
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