Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Notes on Mount Parnassus

Strange doings in the world of English letters. During the run up to the election this year for the Oxford Professorship of Poetry a half dozen candidates withdrew to make way for the distinguished entry of Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott. Then, in the face of an energetic campaign to remind the Oxford community of ancient but credible allegations that the poet from St. Lucia, now an octogenarian, had sexually harassed students at Harvard and Boston University decades ago, Walcott himself withdrew. This left two candidates, one being Ruth Padel, who was duly elected.

This week, in the wake of admitting that she’d played a role in spreading the tittle-tattle about Walcott, Padel resigned the professorship before she’d even ascended to it.

I’ve always considered poets the unacknowledged legislators of our time (as noted here). That said, poets, or those in the world of letters, apparently don’t always have their eyes on the stars.

In an earlier career I edited a literary magazine in New York. More recently, I’ve written some screenplays. Apropos the Oxford contretemps, and having spent time in both realms, I’ve often said to friends that Hollywood is much less rough-and-tumble than what Terry Southern used to call “the quality lit game.” But no one ever believes me.

Meanwhile, this correspondent is going fishin’… this very weekend, in fact, on the River Test. As someone once said, “God never did make a more calm, quiet, innocent recreation than angling.”

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