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Simon Armitage better for Oxford post | Letter from Melvyn Bragg


Your report on the Oxford professorship of poetry (27 May) claims that I said that Wole Soyinka’s age was a cause for concern. This is not so. Geoffrey Hill (also over 80) was a fine choice. I have had the greatest admiration for Soyinka’s remarkable work and his political courage for many years. I was delighted when he won the Nobel prize. But when I learned that Simon Armitage had applied for the Oxford post, I thought that he would be a better choice for what I think is required. He is a fine poet, ready to give ample time to the post and capable of enthusing a new generation in his lectures as he already has done in his poetry and outstanding translations. And if it is true (as I think it is), as Jessica Elgot reports, that “Soyinka’s backers have been keen to stress that they consider the post more an honour to be bestowed than a job to be applied for”, I think it rather strengthens my case. Wole Soyinka is worth the highest honours Oxford could bestow on him. But I think Simon Armitage would be a better choice for this job.
Melvyn Bragg

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