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Derek Walcott vs. Ruth Padel: Sex, smears, and poetry
The fight between Nobel laureate Walcott and Padel, Oxford’s first female poetry chair
 

Poets are fighting a gender war at Britain’s Oxford University, said Macy Halford in The New Yorker. Ruth Padel, the first woman chosen as the prestigious school’s poetry chair, has resigned after admitting she pointed journalists to an old sexual harassment claim against her rival, Derek Wolcott. The reaction has been ugly, with a Wolcott supporter saying the Nobel laureate was smeared by a “gender-based faction,” and a Padel supporter calling Oxford a “sexist little dump.”

How quickly “a historic month for women in British poetry turned sour,” said John F. Burns in The New York Times. Ruth Padel only held the post for 10 days. Now her achievement is overshadowed by the “saga of skullduggery" that brought her down, "opened a bitter schism in Britain’s literary world,” and exposed a culture of "mean-spirited connivance at sharp odds with the university's public posture of academic tolerance and reason."

That's the best part of this scandal, said Zoe Williams in Britain's The Guardian. As with any fight, one can't watch this scuffle without taking sides. But "the delight of the story" is the way it pits "two people held, as poets, to represent the highest in human sensibility, and as academics, the most advanced in maturity and sophistication, and they're pulling each other's pigtails."

 

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