Poetiy race is on

Eleven candidates are in the running for Professor of Poetry after nominations closed last Wednesday, including Oxford alumnus Geoffrey Hill, slam poet Steve Larkin and “poetician” Michael George Gibson.

The poets now have a little more than a week to campaign until voting starts on 21st May. The English faculty praised the “large and extremely diverse” field of candidates, which it said had been encouraged by the move to online voting. In last year’s election, only three valid nominations were submitted.

The frontrunner for the post is Geoffrey Hill, a former Professor of Literature and Religion at Boston University and alumnus of Keble. He was nominated by more than 70 Oxford graduates, including 10 college heads.

Peter McDonald, a Christ Church English don who nominated Hill, described him as “the best English poet writing today, as well as one of our most intelligent and profound critics”.

Hill visited Oxford last Thursday to give a special lecture on “War and Poetry” at Wolfson, although a college spokesperson said it was unrelated to the election.

The other ten candidates include Beat poet Michael Horowitz, Sanskrit scholar Vaughan Pilikian and neuropsychologist Sean Haldane.

The election marks a return for Michael George Gibson, after his general election campaign for the True English Poetry Party in George Osborne’s Tatton constituency ended with him polling only 298 votes.

The self-described “poetician and tunemaker” received 18 nominations after spending two days outside the Ashmolean gathering nominations from passers-by. Gibson has promised to return to Oxford for a poem-off husting against any other willing candidates.

He claimed that the new online voting system could produce a shock result. “I will do anything I can to obtain as many votes as possible. Who knows what will happen?” he said.