Candidates for one of the most prestigious posts in poetry are embroiled in a war of words as Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka hit back at claims by broadcaster Melvyn Bragg that he was too old and “grand” for the role at Oxford University.
Bragg, who had previously backed the Nigerian poet to be the next Oxford chair of poetry, told the Sunday Times he was switching his allegiance to Simon Armitage, saying he was concerned 80-year-old Soyinka would not “bother to come to Oxford” were he appointed. “Soyinka is a grand man … I also query his age,” Bragg said.
Soyinka, a prolific poet, novelist and playwright as well as a political activist, said he was confounded by the comments.
“How curious that anyone would even speculate that I would allow busy and committed people – friends, colleagues and total strangers – to waste their time nominating and campaigning on my behalf for such a prestigious position if I were not serious about contesting,” he said.