Thursday, May 28, 2009

Poetry-shoetry, culture-vulture, Jai ho!

Who says politicians are the only ones who are vicious? Poets can be vicious too, as the murky happenings in Oxford University recently show.

Distinguished poet Derek Walcott who was the popular contender for Oxford’s prestigious chair in poetry had to bow out because of an anonymous campaign about his sexual misdemeanours. He withdrew stating that the campaign had, “degenerated into a low and degrading attempt at character assassination.”

Next in contention was Ruth Padel, a great-great-grand daughter of Charles Darwin, who assumed the poetry chair in Oxford, only to resign. It so happened that she was the one behind the malicious attack on Derek Walcott. In the campaign Ms. Padel had noted Mr. Walcott’s age (79), claimed that he was in poor health and pointed out that he lived in the Caribbean, not Britain. The Sunday Times quoted her as having gone on to say that “what he does for students can be found in a book called ‘The Lecherous Professor,’ recording one of his two reported cases of sexual harassment.”

But who among the famous poets are above reproach? According to New York Times “Michael Deacon in The Telegraph cited Lord Byron (“womanizer”), Samuel Taylor Coleridge (“drug fiend”), John Keats (“smackhead” [heroin addict]), Rudyard Kipling (“imperialist”), T. S. Eliot (“lines that could be construed as racist”) and Dylan Thomas (“drank like a drain, begged and stole from friends”), among others, and concluded, “Not one of them, were they alive today, could hope to land the Oxford post — they just don’t meet the exacting moral standards set by people who conduct smear campaigns.””

Huh, ho, and you thought poets were such refined and cultured people. Who wins? Our own Prof. Arvind Mehrotra who is next in line for the poetry chair in Oxford. Jai ho!


nayan said...

Excellent post! I really enjoyed reading it. I will be back for more!

John said...

Hi Nayan,

Thanks for your comment. Hope you visit more often.