May 19, 2010
Stephen Moss, one of eleven candidates for Professor Of Poetry at Oxford University, has given TNB the following interview, just two days before voting begins on 21 May.
Moss is the Guardian‘s candidate for the P O P, and he’s a regular writer there. A year ago, he explained to Guardian readers why he is standing for the Oxford poetry job, and in the article you can read or hear him read some of his poems: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/jun/05/oxford-poetry-job-ruth-padel
Voting for the P O P closes 18 June. The winner will assume duties in the autumn, primarily of delivering 15 lectures at Oxford University.
Last year, Derek Walcott, the front-runner, bowed out because the campaign had turned ugly. Ruth Padel won the election, but resigned after a few days, having admitted to alerting newspaper journalists about Walcott’s possible sexual misconduct with students.
The election campaign’s turmoil resulted in two new election procedures: electronic voting, and voting for a month rather than a day. Previously, voters (only Oxford graduates who attended graduation) had to be present at Oxford to vote, and they had to wear their Oxford gowns.
Stephen Moss answers my questions in the following email interview:
1) Are you running for the position so that people will call you POP?
Yes, I have to admit the title does appeal. Even poets have ego.
2) What kinds of arguments are you having with the other candidates?
So far, all very good-humoured. Only slight disagreement was with Roger Lewis. I asked him to spread sexual innuendos about me to generate some publicity, but to my surprise he said no.
3) You’ve said that you will give the POP stipend to “needy poets and writers, and to good literary causes” as well as establish a yearly two-week poetry festival in Oxford (not Oxfam) and buy anyone who votes for you a drink. How will they prove that they’ve voted for you—–or is that a minor issue?
I will of course trust them. I’m assuming my vote will be so small, the round will not be too expensive.
4) When you deliver your 15 lectures (not all on the same day, we hope), will you be accompanying yourself on the lyre?
No, I will employ the London Philharmonic.
5) Will you need an assistant POP?
No, I want it to be completely dictatorial.
6) Would you recommend the meals at any of the colleges at Oxford U?
I was at Balliol in the mid-1970s and the foods was fine: spag bol for about 31p, I seem to recall, and nice desserts for 12p. I got very fat, and still am a bit on the puddingy side.
7) Which of the other candidates has the most attractive haircut?
An important question. I have not looked closely, but like the severity of Geoffrey Hill’s style.
8) Which previous POP most intrigues you?
I like Auden’s lines – the lines on his face, I mean. His poetry I can take or leave.
9) Are you wearing a sandwich board?
Not at the moment. Conventional jeans and short-sleeved summer shirt.
10) Would you live in/at Oxford or commute?
I would have a suite at the Randolph. I will be in Oxford on 3 June for an event at the Phoenix Picture House featuring other candidates (starts 8pm) and will be checking in then, fully expecting to be in residence for five years. Thank you so much for your interest and support.
Yours in poetry, SM