Friday, 29 May 2009
The Walcott-Padel Affair
Just don't start any rumours, ok?
But Oxford's Professor of Poetry chair has certainly been hotly contested to the point of hitting the national headlines.
Derek Walcott was all set to walk it when rumours of his hitting on a couple of his female students with inappropriate comments and behaviour in the US many years ago suddenly surfaced. Not major-league stuff, and probably no worse than what many another famous male poet gets up to in his attempts to sexually coerce his less-enamoured female students into sharing a bed with him, but suddenly the whole thing blew up.
Mr Walcott duly bowed out, not wishing the post to be brought into disrepute. So almost by default, rival poet Ruth Padel got elected. However turns out that Ms Padel had sent a few 'innocent' e-mails to journalist friends detailing some aspects of Mr Walcott's alleged past. Stranger still, turns out that 200 letters containing 'strikingly similar' phrasing to Ms Padel's had been dispatched on the same day from the same London sorting office to key Oxford academics in the literary world.
The pressure was mounting and Ruth Padel herself stepped down.
Mysteriouser and Mysteriouser.
Thus the Oxford Professorship of Poetry remains unclaimed and awaiting a new selection process. For myself, I can promise not to descend into a dirty tricks campaign to get elected or slag any of my rivals off. My strategy will consist of a perfectly open and honest attempt at stating my case to the selection committee with the aid of a Powerpoint presentation. And an AK47.
Commensurate to the values of the world in which I live I shall demand to be elected on a 'poetic futures' basis - ie if I am elected they will be freeing me up to devote all my time to writing the poetry to end all poetry. The poetry that sinks a 1000 haiku's and launches 1000 sestina's. And not least being as I am still under 40 and a late blossomer, I do feel the best is yet to come for me artistically, so I'd represent a good risk and potential return for their investment in me.
Poetry fun and games aside, the other news story which caught my attention recently was that of a gentleman I share a housing trust committee with. For four years Andrew Wood has, without a word to the rest of us, been battling against the Metropolitan Police to have photographs they took of him without his consent at an Arms Trade AGM in a London hotel destroyed. And quite so. Why should anyone attending a perfectly legal meeting or protest (of whatever kind) be criminalised in this way, not least when the public are no longer to be allowed to photograph the Police in return, even when the Police are themselves acting illegally!
At last Big Brother Britain has received a well-deserved bloody nose for its pains, with hopefully many more (metaphorical) bloody noses to come as the innocent subject fights back (peacefully of course) against the Police State our once-proud nation seems to be turning into with the law-abiding singled out and persecuted at every turn. The irony of this case though is that Andrew genuinely is the most peace-loving, eco-friendly, community-minded, ethical individual the Police could have picked on. So why on earth it should be assumed that this least-hypocritical of human beings would suddenly wish to become the very ilk of threat to peace that he so abhors and protests against beggers belief.