Professor Wole Soyinka, Nigeria’s Nobel laureate leads a three-horse race for the position of Oxford professor of poetry, a 300-year-old elected post which is seen as the top academic poetry role in the United Kingdom.
According to The Guardian of London, Soyinka, with more than 90 nominations, has a strong support to win the seat, held in the past by writers from Matthew Arnold to Seamus Heaney.
He will be competing for the post with Ian Gregson, a poet, literary critic and professor of creative writing at Bangor University who was backed by 54 graduates and Seán Haldane, a poet, award-winning novelist and psychotherapist who ran for the post in 2010, is the final candidate, with 51 backers, just one more nomination above the minimum of 50.
The winner will be announced on Friday, June 19, 2015.
The professor’s duties will include giving one public lecture a term, as well as encouraging “the art of poetry in the university”, and are rewarded with a stipend of £12,000 per annum.
The position was first held by Joseph Trapp in 1708, the professorship, second only in prestige to that of poet laureate, has been filled in the past by Matthew Arnold, Cecil Day-Lewis, WH Auden, Seamus Heaney and Paul Muldoon. The 2009 election saw the acclaimed poet Ruth Padel, the first woman to be elected, resign less than two weeks after securing the post.
Her departure came after the revelation that she had alerted journalists to allegations of sexual harassment which had been made against her rival for the position, Nobel laureate Derek Walcott. The eminent poet Geoffrey Hill was elected the following year ahead of nine other candidates. Hill, winner of a host of poetry awards, will complete his five-year tenure this summer, with Oxford graduates due to vote on their choice of his successor next month.
81 year old Wole Soyinka, who writes drama, novels and poetry, and won the Nobel in 1986 for his “wide cultural perspective [which] with poetic overtones fashions the drama of existence”, received more than 90 nominations, including votes from writers Melvyn Bragg and Robert Macfarlane.