Looking at how the media presented the Oxford Professor of Poetry Election for VIDA !

maxresdefault (1)There is an interest for women poets in how media presents electoral processes like the recent Oxford Professor of Poetry appointment. Just as there is an interest in how media views poetry generally.

“I would like to see something different at the next election. I would like to see the media discussing women poets and the benefits that they can bring to the chair, and how their role can influence emerging women poets. I feel that this can be achieved by speaking to women candidates with intelligence and not utilising them as filler material in your ossified view of what poetry is.” (VIDA)
 
I started Poethead as a platform that could create visibility for women poets and their translators. Poetry is primarily a process of creation, however, media often engages with poetry at the point where it has become a product, often within the published book. This convergence of media and poetry was always going to be problematic. That a lifetime of creative effort goes into a finished book or books is not recognised by the reviewer who is only interested in producing copy. In order to fully understand the poem within the book, and the book as object, one often has to read the entire body of work by the poet. That we need magazines like Jacket2, Harriet, UBUWEB, Wording the Between, Poetry Foundation, and other platforms wholly dedicated to the poem is a given for the poetic reader. That the media finds the poet a difficult and irascible creature is also a given. It seems far easier for media to use a simplified strategm or model to present the reader with something amounting to cultivating interest in poetry. Evidently the British national press has been using outdated models to platform poetry. It requires review.
 
If the media had generally ignored the Oxford Professor of Poetry election, it might have been better than the samey efforts journalists used to generate interest in the voting process. Mostly the British media opted for failsafe methods in an attempt to bring interest to the Oxford Election. That the press chose to generally ignore one of the candidates who happened to be a woman candidate seems to me beyond remiss. A created invisibility on the part of national media organisations in the case of A. E Stalling’s candidature for the Oxford chair points to laziness and to a lack of effort with regard to examining androcentrism in literary publication and in academic appointment. In the three centuries since its inception the Oxford Chair has been almost wholly occupied by male poets, with the exception of a brief nine-day female occupancy. So, this week I wrote about media laziness for VIDA! Women in the Literary Arts.

If the media is incapable of challenging sexism in poetry, is uninterested in the academic perception of poetry as a male preserve, or indeed in the low review numbers of books by women poets that occur in their newspapers, then what happened at Oxford will continue to occur intermittently and that my friends is just boring.

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