Oxford contender Alice Oswald looks forward to 'extreme poetry events'

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Alice Oswald, one of the candidates to succeed Simon Armitage as the next Oxford professor of poetry, has talked of wanting to stage some “extreme poetry events … all-night readings of long poems, poetry in the dark or in coloured light, even perhaps a Carnival of Translation, A Memory Palace, a Poem-Circus (like the Music-Circus of John Cage), or an exhibition of mobile poems”.

She goes on to say in her statement that “it’s exciting to be engaged in poetry at a time when its medium is changing almost as radically as it did in the eighth century BC. I see no reason why Instagram poems shouldn’t prove as rewarding as concrete poems or the visual poems of classical Chinese and I’d welcome the chance to invite young poets to engage in discussion about what poetry has been and is becoming.”

Another candidate, Andrew McMillan, also acknowledges in his statement that “poetry is having a bit of a ‘moment’ right now; more than any time in the past two decades we’re witnessing a new generation of poets step forward and claim space within the prize-lists and the editorial boards and the inner-rooms of our art form”.  He adds: “It is true that I am young (though with half a decade on Keats, at his oldest), but I would hope to make a dynamic, insightful and fresh contribution to the life of poetry and literature at the university. Perhaps the best thing a role like this can do is to offer illumination of poets who time or fashions have pushed back into the dark.”

The third candidate, Todd Swift, concludes his statement by saying: “My work has been described as a strange admixture of Dylan Thomas and Paul Muldoon. It is in fact its own stylish melange of low and high diction, exploring the eccentric possibility of being a true person or persona in a hyper-mediated age. As a long-time public speaker and polemicist, I would enjoy the chance to lecture on current trends in poetry, and as a gadfly of sorts continue to ask questions of poetry, poets and poems.”

Voting, which is restricted to Oxford University graduates, opened today, Thursday 23 May and will close on Thursday 20 June. The result will be announced on Friday 21 June.

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Dominic James

Fri 24th May 2019 08:40

No easy matter to make a credible bid for the Oxford Chair certainly without formal lines of competition drawn up, as they would be in an eistedfodd.

Straying from the first business of poetry, I'd say we discover uncertainties in this speculation on the 8th Century BC, the self-proclamation of a polemicist, young McMillan seems switched on and responsible, but I don't even like to be informed of the inner-rooms of our art form. In short, it all looks a damn sight too provincial to me, and I am getting old.

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