Monday, May 25, 2009

Darwin's Great Great Granddaughter Resigns as Oxford's Female Professor of Poetry

-C. Paula de los Angeles
Although we witnessed Ruth Padel, Darwin's great great granddaughter make history as she was the first woman to be awarded the selective professorship of poetry at Oxford (started in 1708) last week, we can't applaud just yet. Previous winners include W.H. Auden and Seamus Heaney. The award of her prestigious professorship was shocking not only because she was the first woman, but because she won over Nobel-laureate winner Derek Walcott (This is not to say that Padel was not also recognized as a great poet, as she has won many national awards). Walcott withdrew from the race after Pandel leaked to the media that a previous Harvard student of Walcott's made sexual allegations against him in the 1980s. After The Sunday Times published emails that she had sent to the media, Padel has decided to resign.

Scandal! I wonder how this act may change how people view her poetry on Darwin...

News article link:

Sample of Padel's poetry:
The Miser

(from Chapter One: Boy (1809-1831)

The passion for collecting, which leads a man to be a miser, a virtuoso, or a systematic naturalist, was very strong in me. It was clearly innate. None of my sisters or brother had this taste.

Darwin, Autobiography

Cross the Welsh Bridge out of town, go up the hill
on Frankwell Street and you'll see, above the Severn,
brick pillars with the sandy bloom of an ageing dog.
Around the back, Father's surgery and waiting-room.

Outside, the Stable Yard: hay chutes, a piggery and toolshed.
Lower down, a bothy on the river bank
where plates of jagged ice, harvested in winter from the river,
lean one against the other. A dairy, where these blocks are dragged

to cool the milk and cream. The Quarry Pool
where he fishes for newts and tadpoles.
Collecting: to assert control
over what's unbearable. To gather and to list.

'Stones, coins, franks, insects, minerals and shells.'
Collect yourself: to smother what you feel,
recall to order, summon in one place;
making, like Orpheus, a system against loss.

(Editor's note: Darwin's father was an affluent doctor. The estate of his house, The Mount, bordered the River Severn)

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