Give poets their privacy: Arvind Mehrotra

May 27th, 2009 - 3:36 pm ICT by IANS  

London, May 27 (IANS) Noted Indian poet Arvind Krishna Mehrotra has pleaded the poet’s right to privacy after an election for the Oxford University’s high-profile poetry professorship sank into chaos amid allegations of mud-slinging and conspiracy.
Mehrotra secured 129 votes for the coveted position, but Ruth Padel, the British poet who won with 297 votes, resigned from the post Monday after revelations she had alerted journalists about allegations concerning the frontrunner, Caribbean Nobel laureate Derek Walcott.

Walcott had already withdrawn from the election May 12 after anonymous claims of sexual harassment.

According to reports, Oxford University has indicated that it will hold fresh elections after a cooling-off period but both Padel and Walcott have ruled out standing again.

Padel told The Guardian, “People wouldn’t believe in me,” and Walcott told The Times he did not want to revisit “that awful business.”

Meanwhile, Mehrotra was Wednesday quoted saying he had not yet considered whether he would stand again and that he was not surprised by Padel’s resignation.

“I have not really given any thought to standing for election again. I will cross that bridge when Oxford invites fresh nominations,” he told The Guardian.

“Much water would have flown under it by then. As with Walcott, when the sexual harassment story broke and he withdrew from the race, Ruth Padel’s resignation shouldn’t have taken anyone by surprise. Once even her supporters started saying that she ought to resign, the writing was on the wall.

“From India where I live, these extra-literary goings-on appear more unfortunate than amusing. I hope that some lessons are learnt from this - not least that the private lives of poets should, occasionally, be allowed to stay private,” Mehrotra added.

Padel told the paper: “I apologise to Derek Walcott for doing something which could be misconstrued in the context of a large campaign that had nothing to do with me and which I didn’t know about.”

She hinted at a conspiracy, saying the campaign against Walcott could have been “a plan to undermine me”.

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