Saturday, 9 May 2015

Soyinka and Armitage and Oxford Prof of Poetry

Wole Soyinka and Simon Armitage have now (as well as myself) been nominated. I'm a big fan of Armitage to the extent that I've published a book about him, and I think he'd be great in the role, and a brilliant antidote to fashionable incomprehensibility. Even the current Professor of Poetry, Geoffrey Hill is guilty of that, and I attended one of his lectures where he repeated difficulty difficulty difficulty as a prescriptive mantra. I also reviewed Hill's Without Title and still stand by the anger I expressed about his elegy in that book for Ken Smith - I still think it's horribly inhuman to publish an elegy that has no connection to the person who has died, and is yet another self-advertisingly difficult 'late modernist' effusion. Armitage by contrast has written marvellously intelligent poems which have their difficult moments but which draw upon all the formal resources of poetry to say complex and important things about contemporary life.
However, I think that Soyinka would get my vote if I had one because the post would really benefit from a writer with his political background holding it. His Wikipedia page is one of the most memorable I've ever seen and the life story it tells reveals a very courageous and vivid personality, and he would bring to Oxford, above all, a powerful sense of how literature can still make a political difference.