Page last updated at 22:24 GMT, Saturday, 16 May 2009 23:24 UK

Padel named Oxford poet professor

Oxford University
The role at Oxford University is one of the most influential in UK poetry

Ruth Padel has been named as Oxford University's Professor of Poetry, following a controversial contest.

Padel was elected with 297 votes cast by Oxford graduates and academic staff, making her the first woman to take up the role since its creation in 1708.

It followed the withdrawal of Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott following an anonymous letter campaign against him.

The Oxford University role is regarded as one of the most influential in UK poetry behind that of the laureateship.

Padel replaces the scholar Christopher Ricks, who is stepping down from his five-year term of office at the end of September.

The contest was between Padel and her fellow nominee, the Indian poet Arvind Mehrotra, who received 129 votes.

Padel said she felt "honoured" and "humbled" to accept the position.

'Honoured and humbled'

She said: "I should like to thank the university, and the people who voted for me.

"I feel honoured and humbled to be given this responsibility, and shall try to carry it out as well as I can.

"My backers based their support for me on what they felt I could offer poetry and students. Now I shall do my best to fulfil their trust."

Prior to withdrawing, Walcott had been believed to be the leading candidate.

But he pulled out after Oxford academics received letters reportedly detailing an allegation of sexual harassment made against him.

Padel, who is the great-great-granddaughter of Charles Darwin, is the second female poet to be elected to a high-profile post within a few weeks, following the naming of Carol Ann Duffy as the new Poet Laureate earlier this month.

Previous people to hold the position include Matthew Arnold, WH Auden and Seamus Heaney



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