Sunday, 31 May 2009

New poem on front / Sunday night is / Oxford



I have put the poem I wrote at Arvon up at the front and am still thinking about the male / female figure at the end. I am tempted to turn it into a man for the sheer sake of it. Because it isn't of course - no poem is - a report on something that "happened" like that, but a scene that seems to open some element of understanding, through a combination of, rhythmic, melodic, lexical and narrative actions whose purpose is hidden from the writer in the act of writing, except as a certain compulsion.

Very well. It will be 'he' and we shall see how he crawls into the world like that, phantasmal and croaky and half not there.

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Meanwhile, The Ronettes:



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I have returned sneezing, stuffy headed and with a runny nose. I have had a chance to catch up with the Walcott-Padel affair. I would say that I would love to have read what the writer of Midsummer, The Schooner Flight (decent sized excerpts here) and Omeros (description here) would have said in his series of lectures. Failing that I would have been less interested, but still interested, in what Ruth Padel had to say (she wrote all those columns about poems at The Independent). Failing them both, I would have loved to hear Arvind Mehrotra on any subject he chose to speak about, because he is an outstanding poet, a remarkable, intelligent and wise man, and as honourable as they come. They have lost him too.

Idiots.

As it is, failing all those, I find I intensely don't care who they appoint. One poet speaks, so I hear, of Walcott as "a sleazebag". That will do me, thank you. Let the whole post be set on fire and be pissed on. It is a repulsive affair. Some establishment figure will be appointed - whether male or female is a matter of complete indifference to me. Let whoever it is make that particular career move. I shall look forward to ignoring the whole bag of shite. Forgive the mixed bloody metaphor.



13 comments:

Jamie McKendrick said...

George,
I don't understand your vituperation against "the whole post" of the Poetry Professorship. Is the "they" (in your "They have lost him too. Idiots.") directed at the University? Maybe I'm missing something?
If Arvind Mehrota might still be persuaded to take the job, that surely would be a good thing for all. If, understandably, he's not interested I don't see why other future candidates should be accused of "career moves".
Best wishes,
Jamie

Jamie McKendrick said...

Sorry - that should be Mehrotra (not Mehrota).
Jamie

George S said...

I think they should have offered it to Mehrotra, Jamie. Maybe they did? Do you know whether they did so?

I felt angry because of:

a) the Padel manoeuvres;
b) then the defences of her, especially in terms of Walcott as 'sleazebag';
c) physically I was tired, and was being asked by some to stand.

On:

a) If she thought Walcott was unfit for the post that's fine, she should have said so outright and then not pretended she had done nothing then wriggled and tried to shift blame all over again. She should have declared her objections and defended her position and maybe she might have been right.

As it is, she didn't and...

b) ...a row breaks out about male or female candidates and about sexism. This seems precisely the wrong sort of row to me because it will ignore the poetry or the critical interest and concentrate only on that;

c) I don't think I am an appropriate person to be considered for the Oxford position and I am very tired, but I can see no glory in it for anyone.

There is a lot wrong here.

Oxford are to blame because they could have avoided it by appointing Mehrotra and asking him to please accept.

As for the 'career move' - is that not the reason the whole brouhaha erupted in the first place?

Nobody, but nobody comes well out of this. Do you think anyone - except Mehrotra - does?

How?

And why would anyone want to touch this job now? Even if I were in any way qualified, I would feel sleazy in going for it now that DW is mud-bespattered and RP disqualified and also mud-bespattered and the one clean candidate left is discounted.

Jamie McKendrick said...

George,
I have heard there's a move afoot to encourage Mehrotra to accept, and I think that would be an excellent solution.
But, except in its tardiness to effect this, I don't quite see why Oxford or the position itself can be blamed for any of what's happened. It's a total mess - though that seems to me a reason for defending, or trying to preserve, the good name of the post.
Best wishes,
Jamie

George S said...

But I understood they were scrapping it all and starting again. Isn't that the case?

No, the position itself can't be blamed. That really would be ridiculous. Oxford, however, are at fault for starting over again without publicly offering it to Mehrotra first.

They should have been seen to do that. Absolutely seen. It is stupid to think that with a few weeks' grace and a fresh start the post will be clean as a whistle and hunky-dory. Anybody going for it and occupying it will have to contend with the thought that it should have been Walcott. Or Padel. Or Mehrotra. And that it could have been Mehrotra.

When mud is thrown it sticks to everyone.

Except Mehrotra.

Jamie McKendrick said...

I'm not well enough informed about what's gone on in the aftermath, but I don't think the job has been offered to Mehrotra, and I absolutely agree that it should have been. I've been told there are members of the University urging the Faculty to do so, or at least to explain with reference to the statutes why this should not happen.
I'll post any further information I have.
Best wishes,
Jamie

George S said...

Many thanks, Jamie.

G

Poet in Residence said...

Oxford should appoint Brown's Duffy. A kind of changing of the guard. She could do it in her spare time, of which there will be much, when not peeling onions, when not engaged on various Buck House duties ;-(

Sid the Satchel is offering 5/4 Motion, 3/1 Szirtes, 10/1 Sir Alex Ferguson

James Womack said...

Do you really think the runners-up in elections (elections, not competitions, not races) should be promoted if the winner has for whatever reason to stand down? Isn't there some requirement for an election to reflect the view of the voting public?

The Professor of Poetry election went ahead (behind-the-scenes-flawed, as we now know), and Padel won by 297 votes to Mehrotra's 129. It seems to me wrong to suggest that Mehrotra should have some default right to be offered the post now as a good-conduct prize. If a sitting MP died or resigned there'd be a by-election, you wouldn't simply give the seat to the candidate who came second last time.

There should be an election: I hope Mehrotra stands and, depending who he's up against, I hope he wins, but there should be an election.

Michelle said...

I agree it's a "whole bag of shite".

I think Walcott's lectures would have been memorable.

George S said...


I disagree, James. It's not a bad argument but I still disagree. There were three candidates and three candidates only. Mehrotra was not around to campaign, pulled no dirty tricks. What is more this was hardly an ordinary election. It was a disgraced election. Oxford could at least have offered it to the clean candidate. He might then have turned it down. It would have been possible both to accept and to refuse with honour.

It is my personal opinion, having read and met Mehrotra, albeit only for a few days at a conference in Delhi, that he would have done an excellent job and that Oxford might have had a lot to learn from a major poet from a country and culture it ought to know far better - all the history considered.

It is a damned mess as things stand and it won't be washed clean by a new election.

Desmond Swords said...

There's a poster on the guardian books blog who makes the same point as JW, using the analogy of electing an MP, and which when i first read it, admit it stopped me in my tracks, until i remembered that only 0.3% of the eligible electorate vote in these things.

If you divvy up the figures on this basis, Padel has (say) the backing of 0.2% of the total
electorate and Mehrotra 0.1%.

With these kinds of figures, offering it to Mehrota doesn't seem unfair, as the whole process is more of a ritual than exercise in finding poet most Oxonian graduates desire to lecture there.

If this is the first time the race has ended up like this, rather than looking at it as one would an election to elect an MP, the sensible thing to do would seem to offer it to the candidate who did not withdraw of their own volition and may will deliver something of lasting interest.

The problem with the well known names, is we all know what they have to say, but someone like Mehrota, will inject a freshness and has more chance of articulating a Poetic formed not by the hegemoic Homeric doctrine of the usual Greek mythology, but by a different, older one of the second millenium BC bronze age Indo-Aryan Sanskrit Rigveda poetic, closer to the Creatan-Minoan Golden Age Hesiod has as the first, in his Ages of Man - as the time when gods and humanity lived in harmony before the rise of iron age mainland Mycenaen Greek culture caused the peacable Trading cultures of the Levant to collapse into continual war with the proliferation of weaponry ther new Iron technology brought.

Mehrota could get past the apical Homeric rubicon and speak of something other than the usual anglophone poets.

At the end of the day, it's only a poetry professorship in a provincial English university, with little in the way of prestige if it reverts to type and keeps out a *colonial* on a technicalty.

Desmond Swords said...

Ha ha, Dichetal do Chennaib, one's best effort at incantation, manifestation of knoweldge which enlightens by freestyling from the tips of the fingers and tongue.

It was just after i had posted it occured to me, that Red James on the books blog who makes the same point as JW, is one and the same.

And there was one, surfing round James Fenton, trying to discover is he had dome a phd on Auden.

High praise indeed JW, mistaken for Fenton.