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OXFORD PROFESSOR OF POETRY

Posted on May 10 2019

Three poets are in the running for the distinguished post of Oxford Professor of Poetry: Andrew McMillan, Todd Swift and Alice Oswald. The candidates include two recent Poetry Book Society Selections: Andrew McMillan, whose latest collection playtime was a PBS Autumn 2018 Recommendation, and Alice Oswald whose last book Falling Awake was the PBS Choice in Autumn 2016. 

The Oxford Professor of Poetry is an academic appointment created in 1708 lasting four years. The post is currently held by Simon Armitage, the 45th poet to hold the post at Oxford University.

According to the Guardian Oxford English faculty board chair professor Ros Ballaster said: “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. 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.”

Alice Oswald lives in Devon and is married with three children. Dart, her second collection, won the T. S. Eliot Prize in 2002. Her third collection, Woods etc, was a Poetry Book Society Choice and was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Collection and the T. S. Eliot Prize. A Sleepwalk on the Severn appeared in 2009, as did Weeds and Wild Flowers, her collaboration with the artist Jessica Greenman. Her latest collection Falling Awake won the Griffin Prize and Costa Prizes for Poetry.

Alice Oswald’s poems are always vivid and distinct, alert and deeply engaged in the natural world. Mutability – a sense that all matter is unstable in the face of mortality – is at the heart of each poem: the held tension that is embodied life, and life’s losing struggle with the gravity of nature in our age of climate change.

Andrew McMillan’s debut, physical, was the first poetry collection to win the Guardian First Book Award; it also won a Somerset Maugham Award, an Eric Gregory Award, a Northern Writers’ Award and the Aldeburgh First Collection Prize. It was shortlisted for numerous others including the Dylan Thomas Prize, the Costa Poetry Award, the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year and the Forward Prize for Best First Collection. He is a senior lecturer in the Manchester Writing School at Manchester Metropolitan University. His second collection playtime was a PBS Recommendation.

Andrew McMillan's intimate and painfully frank poems take us back to childhood and early adolescence to explore the different ways we grow into our sexual selves and our adult identities. Examining teenage rites of passage, the queer body and how we use bodies, both our own and other people’s, McMillan's poetry charts our own progress towards selfhood. 

Todd Swift has been editing poetry collections for over 30 years. He is the editor or co-editor of numerous global anthologies, including Carcanet’s Modern Canadian Poets. He is author of ten full collections of poetry, including Seaway: New & Selected Poems, from Salmon, Ireland. His poems have appeared in many leading journals in America, Australia, Britain, Canada and Ireland, such as Poetry (Chicago), Poetry Review, Poetry London, PRISM International, The Globe and Mail, Jacket, and New American Writing. He was Oxfam GB’s poet-in-residence, based in Marylebone, 2004-2012. He was Writer-in-Residence, Pembroke College, University of Cambridge, England, 2017-18. He founded Eyewear in 2012 and is its chief patron.

We wish all candidates the very best of luck. Oxford Alumnae and convocation members can find out more and place their votes here. Voting opens on Thursday 23 May and closes on Thursday 20 June.

PBS Members can order Falling Awake by Alice Oswald and Play time by Andrew McMillan or explore the Eyewear poetry series here with 25% discount.

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