Page last updated at 16:56 GMT, Friday, 18 June 2010 17:56 UK

Geoffrey Hill named Oxford poetry professor

Geoffrey Hill
Geoffrey Hill is a graduate of Keble College

Geoffrey Hill has been named Oxford University's Professor of Poetry, following a controversial contest.

Hill was elected with 1,156 votes, beating Beat poet Michael Horovitz and biographer Roger Lewis, among others.

He replaces Sir Christopher Ricks to become the 44th person to hold the prestigious post.

Last year, newly-elected Ruth Padel declined the post when her role in an alleged smear campaign against fellow contestant Derek Walcott emerged.

Walcott, 79, withdrew following an anonymous letter campaign reportedly detailing sexual harassment claims dating back to 1982.

Besides being a great poet, he is also a critic and lecturer of great distinction
Seamus Perry, Oxford University

Padel apologised "for anything I have done which can be misconstrued".

She insisted she had done "nothing intentional" to lead Walcott to withdraw despite briefing two journalists about the claims.

Hill, a graduate of Keble College, Oxford, who is considered one of the finest living English poets, won the contest by a landslide, clinching 1,156 of the 2,500 votes cast online and in person.

He will take up the post in October to coincide with the start of the new academic year.

Seamus Perry, deputy chairman of the English faculty board at Oxford University, said: "We are glad that so many people wanted to vote under the new arrangements for the election of the professor of poetry and are simply delighted that a poet of Geoffrey Hill's eminence has emerged victorious.

"Besides being a great poet, he is also a critic and lecturer of great distinction and we look forward to his lectures over the next few years as the 44th professor of poetry."

'Charismatic figure'

Dr Perry added: "[Hill] was an extremely strong candidate on a number of fronts.

"He has a very strong voice both as a poet and also as a critic of poetry, and culture more generally. I think he will bring that to the lecture podium.

"He is also a very charismatic figure and will bring to the university a sense of the importance of poetry and the role it can play in contemporary life."

Hill had nine rivals for the professorship: Michael George Gibson, Sean Haldane, Michael Horovitz, Robert P. Lacey, Steve Larkin, Roger Lewis, Chris Mann, Stephen Moss and Vaughan Pilikian.

The only female candidate, Paula Claire, withdrew from the race on 7 June.

Hill was not in Oxford for the announcement on Friday and did not want to comment on his election.

A University spokeswoman said: "Geoffrey Hill will bring his distinctive poetic voice to the role of Professor of Poetry... he has won numerous awards for his work including the Hawthornden Prize and the Whitbread Award, and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

"Professor Hill's work, both poetry and prose, is studied in English departments across the world, and his powerful and intricate poetic voice has won him both critical praise and a wide audience."

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