Oxford Needs a Practising Poet of Its Own

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Byline: Olivia Cole

THERE'S no formal place for creative writing on the Oxford English curriculum, so the absence of a practising poet has been a big gap since last May.

As Al Alvarez (the poet-critic and Sixties champion of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath) once pointed out, the professorship is "an outsider's job. It's not often that someone from outside Oxford gets a chance to lecture there, which is why it matters that they should. Remember The Ladykillers with Peter Sellers -- well, I'm for Professor Lopsided ..." That's why there's a case for someone as determinedly out of the box as Michael Horovitz. That said, there are so few jobs for poets anyway, it's hard not to balk at the inclusion of people who don't even write poetry, or very much of it.

There is Roger Lewis, a literary critic whose subjects include Peter Sellers, and Sean Haldane, who has devoted his career for the most part to his work as a clinical neuropsychologist.

The TLS recently ran a column suggesting that the enduring hangover of the Padel/Walcott storm is a new "popular" status. With uncanny resonance for last year's debacle, this rerun has even managed to incorporate a row, though thankfully of more comic proportions this time. Paula Claire, a "sound and visual" poet whose swirling, squawking website made me wonder if she was a student prank, withdrew last week alleging that the university was unfairly promoting Hill. …


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