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Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Nominations Are In For Oxford Professor of Poetry

Not only will Britain have a new government sometime soon after 6 May - in June, it will have a new Oxford Professor of Poetry, to fill the shoes of the retired professor, Ruth Padel.  So far, this has been a rather arcane campaign - plans to provide for online voting seem at odds with the decidedly low-key (and byzantine) system - as nominees must be put forward by Oxford students with degrees (and some apparently never bother to officially "take" such degrees). At any rate, the flood of popular, sunny, Clegg-like figures has yet to sweep us the people away.  Only three poets have been so far confirmed, and of those, the less said the better about two of them - or rather, the more said, because I had, frankly, never heard of them until today.

It seems odd and a little ludicrous, if not vain, to allow oneself to be put forward for such a position, when one is, obviously, not of the first, or even second, rank.  The third nominee is the great genius of the English language, Geoffrey Hill.  Hill should have a real and healthy challenger.  Some Oxford graduates should nominate a few of the younger, lively, and intelligent poet-critics of the last few generations: Fiona Sampson, perhaps, or maybe even a fine English poet with popular appeal, like Daljit Nagra,  or Paul Farley.  On the other hand, even younger dynamic figures, like James Byrne, or Tom Chivers, or indeed, a poet like Heather Phillipson, would be of interest, if only as youth-vote candidates to shake things up.  Let alone Alice Oswald - someone of that weight.

In short, this could be a thrilling opportunity to showcase the variety of opinion and talent of the current generations of poetry.  And, since any poet from anywhere in the world can be nominated, John Ashbery, or indeed, a Canadian (Anne Carson?) could be put forward.  Michael Schmidt, too, would be a superb option; or the antipodes' CK Stead.  The list is endless.  It seems to speak of a decline in interest in poetry that the Oxford students have yet to make any startling, or fresh, or exciting nominations, beyond that for Hill, so far.
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