Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Totleigh 1: a shout for Mehrotra.


Arrived from London yesterday, meeting fellow tutor, Helen, at Paddington, then down on the usual crowded train, but finding seats. The train stuffy smelling faintly - as H said - of chips. Picked up at Exeter by taxi and brought down into the valley, over the cattle grids - one of them shiningly new. Many students already here, and there are cars in plenty - mostly younger than average.

The big news is the resignation of Ruth Padel as Oxford Professor of Poetry, on which no special comment from me, except that it is a comedy-tragedy for all involved, and that the forgotten third nominee, Arvind Mehrotra, whom I met in Delhi, is a marvellous poet and one of nature's deeply good people, so I hope he is offered it and accepts it. The fact that few have heard of him here reflects deeply on us, and not in the least - let us contemplate this fact for a minute in silence - on him. And why not an Indian poet in the job? He'd be very good - a revelation, I think - and what he would have to say would be new and to the benefit of all. Bring on Arvind Mehrotra!

As regards Walcott I don't know the full facts - if there are full facts to know - but his generation, which in this country was the generation of heavy boozers, les grands buveurs, as Peter Redgrove had it, was in the USA - and indeed sometimes here - the generation of campus affairs. The guillotine fell heavily on that malarky in the eighties. My generation preferred to teach in rooms with glass doors or windows or open doors. I still do. Sensible paranoia.

Back then, in the 60s and 70s, it was, as the TV show I have never watched has it, Life on Mars, so there would have been nothing peculiarly heinous in such advances when Walcott was a younger man. Autre temps, autre moeurs (French day today). I don't suppose Byron or Shelley or Donne would be offered the Professorship now. And as for Rimbaud or Verlaine, perish the thought. Not even Betjeman, with his love of strong young tennis girls.

Lewis Carroll...? Don't ask.

These are the menfolk, of course, but I am sure a few of the lyrical womenfolk might disqualify themselves.



9 comments:

Jeremy Millar said...

Have you seen who's been nominated on the Guardian blog?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/booksblog/2009/may/26/ruth-padel-oxford-professor-of-poetry

Scroll down a bit...

Linda Grant said...

I am starting a campaign to persuade George to stand and some Oxford bod to nominate him. Join up below!

Background Artist said...

You seem to have the popular vote George, goo awn, i dare yer.

You seem the only commentator who has responded in a non hysterical manner and not blown the hoo ha up to an earth ceasing to spin event.

Nicole S said...

Linda: Szirtes for prof, absolutely! George, you'd be brilliant, even if you don't invite awestruck young people round for tea and crumpets like Auden used to.

Linda Grant said...

Perhaps we can email Obama and ask for his advice on how to get elected.

Catherine Czerkawska said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Catherine Czerkawska said...

I entirely agree. They were different (and for all the obvious disadvantages) in some ways more interesting times. The advances may have been made very occasionally (it wasn't exactly rife!) but we were so sure in our own feminity and unashamed feminism that we had little trouble in repelling them - if we wanted to. But maybe Edinburgh was full of peculiarly confident young women back then!

Poet in Residence said...

Oxford should dig up Dylan Thomas. I could tell them where he is.

Judith Fitzgerald said...

This is good good news. I just don't understand why it didn't go to Arvind by default. Maybe someone can explain it to me. He got votes and the high number of spoiled ballots spoke eloquently.

Obama's not taking calls, Linda :); you have to CrackBerry him, don'tcha know? LOL.

George, I join you in your shout for Mehrotra. I'm going to say so publicly in The Globe and Mail Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday (depending upon when I can escape the hospital . . . er, no, it's overnighting for transfusions and injections, not brain-dedications).

I did start the campaign for Mehrotra in Canada; but, Linda will tell you what happens (or doesn't happen) here. She got smart; she got out (sadly for us, happily for her). Still, I managed a comment that said most of what I would have said in the Blog where I apparently don't cover Poetry even though I do.

That's Canadian logic for you :).

Grrrr . . . E-gawds, though, the levels of PCeity have sunk so low, they're no longer beneath my contempt.

p.s. This .sigfile-linked page takes forever to load; we just changed our entire system and platform; wait for the comments on the link to The Globe and Mail's BookBlog, "In Other Words," pls/tnx, it's worth a look and will help Arvind (I hope, I pray)
p.p.s. I am so tired of being called a misogynist because I despise the lack of ethics and the further overslight to Mehrotra; now, I'm being called the C word — not to mention the virii and email shit — because I'm on my own over here with only Rus Bowden in the States lobbying for Arvind (and, we're doing a good job of keeping it front-and-centred on Books, Inq.); both Rus and I believe Mehrotra earned the position and should be assuming it, not re-running in another election for it; can't one of you find a good pro-bono legalist over there to go beat somebody up or knock a few heads together? J/kiddin' . . .
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