16 may 2009

Ruth Padel elected Professor of Poetry


poetry professor candidate
Ruth Padel will succeed Christopher Ricks as Professor of Poetry

Oxford graduates and academic staff turned out to the Examination Schools today (16 May) to elect the successor to Christopher Ricks as Professor of Poetry.

After one of the most public battles in years, Oxford alumna Ruth Padel triumphed, with 297 votes, making her the first female Professor of Poetry since the role was created in 1708.

Her fellow nominee Indian poet Arvind Mehrotra received 129 votes. The third candidate, Nobel Prize-winning poet Derek Walcott withdrew from the elections earlier this week.

Chair of the English Faculty Board Dr Sally Mapstone said: “It is tremendous that May 2009 has seen the election of the first woman Professor of Poetry at Oxford and the first woman Poet Laureate. Ruth Padel will be a dynamic and distinguished Professor, and we are very pleased to welcome her.”

Professor Padel studied Classics at Lady Margaret Hall and went on to do a DPhil. In her new post she will work hard to unite poetry and science. She has given seminars for the Euroscience Forum Barcelona, the Royal Society and Royal Society of Medicine and her sequence on her great-great-grandfather Charles Darwin' Darwin A Life in Poems (2009) has drawn unanimous accolades. She is unique in being a Fellow of both the Royal Society of Literature and Zoological Society of London. 

She said: 'I should like to thank the University, and the people who voted for me. I feel honoured and humbled to be given this responsibility, and shall try to carry it out as well as I can. My backers based their support for me on what they felt I could offer poetry and students. Now I shall do my best to fulfil their trust.

'Last night, in St Peter’s College, I read to undergraduates from Physics, Zoology, Russian and Anthropology, who were excited and passionate about poetry, especially poetry and science. That is what I should like to do: to explore what poems can give to students, college by college, department by department, in the humanities and sciences. To encourage, across the university, the reading, the writing and above all the enjoying of poetry, ancient and modern, in all its richness and variety.'