The nomination period for election to the prestigious post of Oxford Professor of Poetry opens on Thursday amidst speculation whether noted Indian poet Arvind Mehrotra would be one of the leading candidates.

In the election held in May 2009, Mr. Mehrotra lost to Ruth Padel, who stood down before taking the appointment under controversial circumstances when her involvement in a campaign against one of the candidates during the election was revealed.

Nominations close on May 5 and for the first time in the history of the post, those eligible to vote will be able to do so online.

The candidates need to be nominated by at least 12 members of the Convocation — all former Oxford University students who have graduated, as well as current and retired members of Congregation (the University’s ‘parliament’).

The election will identify a successor to Professor Sir Christopher Ricks, whose highly-acclaimed five-year term ended last year.

In the event of a contested election, voting is by members of Convocation who must register to vote between April 12 and June 4 and voting will start on May 21 and close on June 16.

“Over the last three centuries the Professorship has been held by some of the most eminent poets and scholars in the English-speaking world, and we look forward to an appointment that will continue this unique and illustrious line,” Seamus Perry, Deputy Chair of the English Faculty Board, said.

“Sir Christopher Ricks, not only gave a series of brilliant public lectures but worked energetically to promote the art of poetry both within the University and more widely. We await with great excitement the emergence of his successor, the heir to Matthew Arnold, W.H. Auden, Robert Graves, and Seamus Heaney, among many others,” he added.

The duties of the Professor of Poetry include giving a public lecture each term and the Creweian Oration at the University’s honorary degree ceremony every other year.

Many distinguished men of letters held the Chair in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, including two Thomas Wartons — both father and son — and the poet and religious leader John Keble.

However, it was Keble’s godson, the great Victorian poet and critic Matthew Arnold, uniquely elected twice to the Professorship (in 1857 and 1862), who really created the Professorship in its modern form.

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