Oxford Poetry Scandal: Listen to Audio from Padel and Walcott; Read Mehrota

Who knew poetry was such a lecherous and backstabbing business?

Derek Walcott cancelled his campaign to become the Oxford Professor of Poetry after the combination of whispering emails to journalists and an anonymous mailshot to Oxford dons rejuvenated allegations of his sexual harassment of a Harvard and a Boston University student in the 1980s. That left a field of two, Arvind Krishna Mehrota and Ruth Padel. Decrying the furor, Padel won. She reigned as poetry-chair-elect for nine days, until...

It became known that Padel had sent tip-off emails, with strange spellings, about the Walcott allegations to the press. She copped to the emails and resigned. She continues to deny all knowledge of how envelopes containing photocopies of pertinent pages from the lyrically titled The Lecherous Professor arrived at the letter boxes of Oxford voters at a crucial point in the campaign. The missives were unadorned by return address or cover note (postmarked: London). Perhaps the Padelophiles (or, more likely, the Walcottophobes) over-exerted themselves with batch photocopying copyrighted material and lacked the energy to identify themselves?

Walcott, already laureled by the Nobel Prize in 1992, has refrained from commenting on the email revelation. Padel is apologizing, speculating about conspiracy, and pleading naivété. Mehrota seems above scandal but may not have enough support to prevail. Oxford University has put the contest in time-out. (The current Oxford Professor of Poetry, Christopher Ricks, remains unsullied and is expected to finish out his term to the end of September.)

In case you want to compare the poetic chops of the first-round rivals, here are some links:

Ruth Padel discussing her collection Darwin, A Life in Poems and reading the poem "In the Seraglio" on Nature's site (go down the left panel to the third forward arrow; 11-minute segment will pop up in blue player top left, with download option). Padel is one of Charles Darwin's 72 grandchildren--apparently his genes are favored to survive.

From 2007: Derek Walcott talks about travel and St. Lucia with NPR's Jackie Lyden, and reads his poem "Sea Grapes" (poem text is included on launch page). Approximately 8 minutes.

The BBC's Harriet Gilbert interviews Derek Walcott about his epic poem "Omerus" for the BBC's World Book Club (use "Quick Find" if listing is not visible). Also available on iTunes as of this posting. 52 and 1/2 minutes.

I was unable to locate audio from Arvind Krishna Mehrota, so this link is text-only, to his poems "House by the Mill" and "Bhojpuri Descant."  A few more here.

If the ears have it, I think it's Walcott all the way, as long as lechery stays on the page.

No comments:

Post a Comment