Simon Armitage wins Oxford Professor of Poetry election

from The Guardian

Popular British poet selected for prestigious post ahead of strong field including Wole Soyinka

Simon Armitage: keen to discuss ‘poetry’s relationship with the civilian world’.
Simon Armitage: keen to discuss ‘poetry’s relationship with the civilian world’. Photograph: Gareth Phillips for the Guardian

The British poet Simon Armitage has seen off an international field to be chosen as Oxford’s latest professor of poetry.

Speaking to the Guardian after the announcement, Armitage said he was “delighted and very excited and suitably daunted as well”.

“It’s been such a long process,” he said. “In the time it’s taken we’ve had a general election, Sepp Blatter has come and gone and come again, and we’ve nearly got a new leader of the Labour party.”

He said he would try to give students an insight into “what is occasionally quite a muddy world, and a muddy art form, remembering that the audience are primarily students, and not to see it as a platform for professorial grandstanding”.

“For me, it’s a chance to say something a little bit more contemporary,” he said. “Often it’s been professors talking about previous generations. I feel as if I’d like to bring thing up to date. To look at poetry today, in dialogue with the poetry of the past.”

The award-winning author of more than 12 collections of poetry, Armitage has been hailed by fellow poet Sean O’Brien as “the first poet of serious artistic intent since Philip Larkin to have achieved popularity”. Combining linguistic inventiveness, streetwise flair and contemporary subjects, he has reached an audience far beyond the literary ghetto with poems, novels, translations of medieval verse and scripts for radio and television.

The poet laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, welcomed the announcement, calling Armitage “a fine, vocational poet and a brilliant communicator for the modern age who never forgets the roots and ancestry of poetry”.

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