Prof. Wole Soyinka has lost the race to be Oxford’s Professor of poetry to British poet, Simon Armitage. Armitage, the popular poet and broadcaster, secured 1,221 votes – 301 more than his closest rival, Wole Soyinka.
Armitage was backed by more names, including John Carey and Melvyn Bragg. Bragg had previously supported Soyinka, but later publicly switched his allegiance to Armitage
Soyinka, the first African writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature and a respected playwright and political activist, was an early favourite for the post after garnering by far the highest number of nominations.
But Lord Bragg threw a spanner in the works last month when he publicly withdrew his support for Soyinka and switched allegiance to Armitage, claiming Soyinka was too old and insufficiently committed to the job.
He said Soyinka, a US-based Nigerian who turns 81 next month, “has not written much poetry recently and I now wonder how often he would bother to come to Oxford. Soyinka is a grand man and would regard it as a grand post. I also query his age.”