A case of poetic justice


Reporters throughout the world are calling Ruth Padel’s resignation from the Oxford Professorship of Poetry “a case of poetic justice” after it was revealed that she had sent e-mails to reporters pointing them to sexual harassment allegations against her main rival Derek Walcott. [See E-mails show that Ruth Padel was implicated in smear campaign against Walcott.] Today, in a brief press conference at the Hay Festival of Literature in Wales, she did admit sending two emails to journalists she was in contact with detailing information “that was already in the public domain” regarding Mr. Walcott, acknowledging that sending the emails was “naive and silly”, but stopping short of saying that they were wrong. “I do want to apologize to him, but I cannot apologize for things I have not done and I have not done the campaign. I apologize for anything I have done that can be misconstrued as having been against him.”

She said that, in hindsight, she would have been better advised to contact the university authorities directly with her concern. “I was reacting day by day to things and there were too many things and I did not think it through. I was in touch with the students and they were concerned. I have had hundreds of emails of support and I have had other emails saying other things. I do think I was very silly to send the emails.” She said she took the decision to stand down from the post after learning yesterday that opinion in Oxford was “bitterly divided.”

Ms Padel, although slightly repentant, stopped short of any statement that would endorse Walcott’s candidacy in a new election. Referring to the St. Lucian Nobel Prize winner she said that “he’s my senior colleague and I revere his work,” recalling one of the allegations in her e-mail—that Walcott, at 79, was too old for the post. She also hoped that the next Professor would be a woman: “I hope things can move on now and that wounds can heal and I hope the next Oxford Professor of Poetry is a woman.”

There are many reports in the press on the press conference and I am adding only the one below because it contains an audio of the press conference: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/may/26/padel-error-poetry-election

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