Wole Soyinka is in London for an environmental conference and gave an interview to the Times’s David Aaronovitch in which he discusses (rather amusingly) fellow Nobel Prize winner Derek Walcott’s troubled candidacy for the post of Oxford Professor of Poetry. Here is what he had to say . . .
As we speak the Padel case is coming to its tatty end. “Oh, there you are,” says Soyinka, enthusiastically, “even a zone that is supposed to be isolated from this kind of thing.”
It turns out that the wronged candidate for the Oxford poetry chair, Derek Walcott, had been staying with Soyinka in Nigeria just before the story broke. “I felt personally about this,” Soyinka says, “I mean, for God’s sake. There but for the grace of God go I. It can happen to any of us, especially in countries like Amercia, where you can be sued for admiring a student’s skirt. And to rake this up, how many years afterwards?”
Derek Walcott, he tells me, is one of the three finest poets in the whole wide world. “I look out for him, he looks out for me. So when this thing happened I felt heartbroken for him. I felt heartbroken for the muse of poetry. So this morning, when I went to the BBC, in the lobby I saw this tickertape on screen, saying that Ms Padel had resigned, I thought, there’s something called poetic justice.”
Then there was the suggestion that, at 79, Walcott was past sexually harassing anyone. “As someone very close to Derek’s age,” twinkles Soyinka, who will never cease to be active, “I resent that statement.”
For the complete interview go to http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/books/article6386443.ece