The Radcliffe Camera and All Souls College, viewed from the University Church of St Mary the Virgin.
The Radcliffe Camera and All Souls College, viewed from the University Church of St Mary the Virgin.

Image credit: @oxfotography on Instagram

Oxford seeks new Professor of Poetry to succeed Simon Armitage

Nominations have opened for the election of Oxford University’s new Professor of Poetry.

The successful entrant will succeed Simon Armitage, who became Oxford’s 45th Professor of Poetry when he was elected in 2015.

A new Professor of Poetry is elected every four years, and their responsibilities include giving a public lecture each term, as well as an oration at the University’s honorary degree ceremony every other year.

Voting will be open to members of Convocation, a group that includes a quarter of a million Oxford graduates who have had their degree formally conferred, and several thousand members of staff who make up the University’s ‘parliament’, known as Congregation.

Anyone who meets the published criteria for eligibility can nominate themselves for the post, but to progress to the contested election stage a candidate must have gained the support of 50 members of Convocation by Thursday 9 May.

Voting opens on Thursday 23 May and closes on Thursday 20 June, and the result of the election will be announced on Friday 21 June. All those with a right to vote must also register to do so.

This year, for the first time, those who put themselves forward and are eligible for the position (or are nominated by someone else) will be listed on the election website, giving candidates greater access to members of Convocation who can support their nomination and help them reach the required 50 signatures.

Professor Ros Ballaster, Chair of the English Faculty Board at Oxford, said: ‘Poetry is one of the few – and fastest – growing areas of the publishing industry. Last year poetry sales in the UK grew by just over 12% for the second year in a row. In short and long form, print and spoken word, in the vernacular and translation, poetry has never been more popular. The audience for poetry is changing, too: two-thirds of buyers of poetry last year were under 34.

‘Oxford’s Professor of Poetry position is an unusual but important one. Simon Armitage, the current holder of the post, has drawn a large audience from both the University and the general public, and his lectures are made available even more widely through podcasts. Each new Professor brings their own wisdom, interests and viewpoint to the lectures they deliver, but they always offer a platform for wider conversations about the place of poetry in society and culture.

‘Online nomination and election, alongside new opportunities to reach audiences through social media, make it possible for the process to be more transparent, open and simple than ever before. We hope not only to appoint an outstanding individual to represent poetry in the heart of learning, but also to stimulate lively debate and new encounters with a diverse range of voices.’

Professor Louise Richardson, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford, said: ‘Poetry has the power to enlighten, enrich and move us by making the ordinary extraordinary and reminding us what it means to be human. As we extend our warm thanks to the wonderful Simon Armitage, we also look forward to welcoming his successor, who will be the 46th Professor of Poetry at Oxford.’

The Professor of Poetry election website, with further information on the nomination and election process, can be found here: