India’s A.K. Mehrotra in race for Oxford poetry position

April 23rd, 2009 - 7:42 pm ICT by IANS  

London, April 23 (IANS) It is a 300-year-old post at the venerable Oxford University and previous occupants include W.H. Auden, Matthew Arnold and Seamus Heaney. Now Indian poet and teacher A.K. Mehrotra’s name is doing rounds as Oxford’s new professor of poetry.
“With a week to go before nominations for Oxford’s new professor of poetry close, the competition has heated up after a new candidate threw his name into the ring alongside Derek Walcott and Ruth Padel,” the Guardian reported Thursday.

Nominations close April 29 and Oxford graduates will vote for their choice on May 16 for the post is described as the most high-profile position in British poetry behind the laureateship. Nobel laureate Walcott has nominations from 121 graduates and Padel has 96 backers.

Mehrotra, a poet and literary critic who is professor of English at the University of Allahabad, is supported by writers including Tariq Ali, Amit Chaudhuri and Toby Litt.

One of his nominators, Oxford English lecturer Peter D. McDonald described him as “one of the finest poets working in any language”, and “a poet-critic of an exceptionally high order”.

“Mehrotra has much to say of value - of urgency - on the matter of multilingualism, creative practice, and translation (in both its literal and figurative sense), issues that are pressingly important in today’s world,” McDonald was quoted as saying.

“He is not an easy ‘post-colonial’ choice, for he emerges from a rich and occasionally fraught world history of cosmopolitanism; but he is proof - as critic and artist - that cosmopolitanism is not only about European eclecticism, but about a wider, more complex network of languages and histories. For these reasons he would make an excellent, and timely, professor of poetry at Oxford.”

The incumbent of the post, currently held by literary critic Christopher Ricks, delivers three lectures on poetry a year.

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