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Professor of Poetry nominations
Steve Larkin
Steve Larkin is a popular Oxford-based Slam Poet

The Oxford University Professor of Poetry is a highly prestigious role, widely considered second only to the Poet Laureate.

Previous luminaries in the role include WH Auden, Robert Graves and Seamus Heaney.

In 2009 controversy scuppered the first vote meaning the whole contest had to be re-run.

For the first time voting is online so all Oxford graduates can take part in choosing the new professor.

The successful candidate will hold the post for five years and be paid the sum of £7,000 per year.

Duties that the professor must undertake in the role include making an annual speech, being a judge for various prizes and to "encourage the art of poetry in the university."

Roger Lewis by Francesco Guidicini, Sunday Times
Roger Lewis is not a big name in poetry circles but is a renown author

The nominations have all been submitted for the election which will begin on 21 May with the winner being announced on 18 June.

Speaking on Radio 4's Front Row the former Poet Laureate Andrew Motion said he had some ideas for "re-establishing and re-affirming" the post.

However, when he heard that that the poet Geoffrey Hill might be persuaded to stand he thought it was such a good idea he decided not to stand in his way.

Mr Motion was keen not to be seen to bias the election. "Unlike the general election the difference between the candidates is much more marked," he said, adding that this variety gave voters a "real choice".

But he indicated slight caution when discussing writers Roger Lewis and Stephen Moss: "There is no reason why anybody shouldn't stand for it so good luck to them but it is not clear to me what their manifest interest in poetry is."

'Stifling ivory tower'

Roger Lewis might not have obvious poetry credentials but is clearly a talented writer.

His book The Life and Death of Peter Sellers was made into a multi-award-winning film by HBO starring Geoffrey Rush and Charlize Theron and his recent book Seasonal Suicide Notes was described in the Independent as "consistently hilarious".

Seán Haldane
Seán Haldane is a neuropsychologist but has had poems published

Less traditional poets have also thrown their hats into the ring.

Consultant neuropsychologist Seán Haldane says that if elected he would "talk about the neuropsychology of poetry, poetry and verse, poetry and 'more-than-coincidence', poetry in different languages, and what Hardy called its 'sustaining power'."

The Slam Poet Steve Larkin would be a radical choice if elected. He states: "I intend to assist a paradigm shift, namely the resurrection of spoken word culture in all its glorious forms.

"I intend to reload the literary canon and fire it through the walls of any stifling ivory tower that blocks the emergence of an exciting and inclusive live literature scene."

Andrew Motion also suggested that Michael Horovitz might be a strong contender calling him "the grand old man of the poetic left".

"He's a very significant person on the scene, he's a man who has contributed enormously over many years to what we enjoy collectively as the poetry scene."

Geoffrey Hill remains a firm favourite with over 70 nominations, far more than any other candidate, but this election could prove as unpredictable as the general election itself.


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