Words in Pictures: Oxford Professor of Poetry

Geoffrey Hill's appointment this week offers a chance to look back over the work of his predecessors

This week's appointment of Geoffrey Hill as the 44th Oxford Professor of Poetry is the happy ending that has eluded this saga - more compelling than any poetic epic - for almost a year.

Until it made the headlines last year for all the wrong reasons, the position was not one that provoked much public debate. Yet, second only to the Laureate in the hierarchy of UK poetry appointments, Oxford's Professor of Poetry is a role that has been occupied by some of the great critics and poets of our nation.

Matthew Arnold, Cecil Day Lewis, W H Auden have all served in the post, whose 5 year term requires the delivery of three lectures each year, followed more recently by the likes of Seamus Heaney and Christopher Ricks.

Following the scandal surrounding Ruth Padel's 2009 appointment (followed by her resignation nine days later), and the smearing of fellow nominee Derek Walcott - which did as much to discredit the antiquated selection procedure as the poets themselves - the appointment of Geoffrey Hill marks a welcome return to business as usual.

To celebrate, we've drawn together videos and recordings of the most recent appointees - Paul Muldoon, James Fenton, Christopher Ricks - as well as rare footage of Hill himself. Enjoy a reading of Fenton's Betjeman-esque "In Paris With You", see Ricks and Muldoon discussing poetry, and watch Hill reciting "The Storm".

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Brexit… Leg-sit

A new poem by Jo-Ella Sarich. 

Forgot Brexit. An ostrich just walked into the room. Actually,
forget ostriches too. Armadillos also have legs, and shoulder plates
like a Kardashian.  Then I walked in, the other version of me, the one
with legs like wilding pines, when all of them

are the lumberjacks. Forget forests. Carbon sinks are down
this month; Switzerland is the neutral territory
that carved out an island for itself. My body
is the battleground you sketch. My body is
the greenfield development, and you
are the heavy earthmoving equipment. Forget
the artillery in the hills
and the rooftops opening up like nesting boxes. Forget about

the arms race. Cheekbones are the new upper arms
since Michelle lost out to Melania. My cheekbones
are the Horsehead Nebula and you are the Russians
at warp speed. Race you to the finish. North Korea

will go away if you stop thinking
about it. South Korea will, too. Stop thinking
about my sternum. Stop thinking about
the intricacy of my mitochondria. Thigh gaps
are the new wage gaps, and mine is like
the space between the redwood stand
and the plane headed for the mountains. Look,

I’ve pulled up a presentation
with seven different eschatologies
you might like to try. Forget that my arms
are the yellow tape around the heritage tree. Forget
about my exoskeleton. Forget
that the hermit crab
has no shell of its own. Forget that the crab ever
walked sideways into the room.
Pay attention, people.

Jo-Ella Sarich is a New Zealand-based lawyer and poet. Her poems have appeared in the Galway Review and the Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2017.

This article first appeared in the 17 August 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump goes nuclear