Over in England the competition for the post of Oxford Professor of Poetry is well under way. This prestigious position, a five-year appointment with an annual stipend of 7000 pounds, has attracted a wide range of candidates from the well-known poet Geoffrey Hill to the journalist Stephen Moss, who, though he describes his own poetry as "execrable," has promised to buy a drink for everyone who votes for him (certainly enough to get my vote).
And then there is the Sanskrit scholar Vaughan Pilikian. While he may not have the qualifications of someone like Hill, his statement in support of his candidacy may be the most florid, passionate and melodramatic of them all, enough to send the tweedy dons scurrying to the nearest exit. He declares, in part:
"Without wishing to take anything from the professorship's venerable past, the time has surely come to douse the fluttering flames of our traditions and step out into the dark. My aim in this august office will be to pull poetry from the drawing rooms and the garrets and the palaces, and send it forth. For poetry is a weapon, bloodsoaked and glinting. It is a gnostic heresy, a counterattack on all that holds us captive, a challenge to the cruel symmetries and stifled laughter of the Demiurge. It is only through poetry that we might revenge ourselves on time."
Who says poetry doesn't matter?