Why a chair of poetry has little to do with poetry

The recent events and ripples had passed me, excepting a couple of ‘polemical’ responses by AC Grayling and feminist blogs. The issue is this: in the election of the Oxford university chair of poetry;  a significant position in the institution of poetry (if such a thing actually means anything), an allegation of unfair play has been made in that the elected holder of the chair Ruth Padel (also known as a descendent of Charles Darwin) was involved with informing the university authorities that one of the other candidates for election has had a shady past with sexually harassing his former students.

The allegation seems to have made any holder of the chair to be untenable unless they are completely unrelated to the incident; either dissolve the chair or arrange an election at a different time. It is, it seems, a very thorny issue. Two issues really come to mind here:

1. It is a disturbingly widespread phenomenon that academics abuse their position with regard to sexual harassment and coercion. This is true for all academic subjects, including philosophy.

2. What role does poetry have in our lives today? Exactly how is poetry a relevant medium? I find this somewhat difficult to answer, as the great exemplars are hard to find. I’ve not really found many hard hitting hip-hop artists and I’ve generally understood poetry as an activity historical more than literary (though one is not to deny the latter). Although more of that is my own lack of familiarity with the medium and my own ignorance!


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