Professor of Poetry

History

The Professor of Poetry lectures were conceived in 1708 by Berkshire landowner Henry Birkhead and began after he bequeathed some money so it could be a valuable supplement to the curriculum. He believed ‘the reading of the ancient poets gave keenness and polish to the minds of young men as well as to the advancement of more serious literature both sacred and human’.

The first poetry professor, Joseph Trapp, took as his subject poetry in general. He was mainly concerned with the classical poets – particularly Roman writers. William Hawkins, professor from 1751 to 1756, was interested in drama and more modern works, and was renowned for quoting extensively (in Latin) from the works of Shakespeare during his lectures.

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: Arnold spoke about literary matters of contemporary concern, and was the first Professor to deliver his lectures in English, as opposed to Latin.

A new Professor of Poetry is appointed every four years. All members of convocation are eligible to vote in the election. He or she must give a public lecture each term and, by convention, the Creweian Oration at the University's honorary degree ceremony every other year.

Professor A.E. Stallings

The current Professor of Poetry is Professor A. E. Stallings. She will be giving one lecture each term for the four years of her tenure. 

Professor Stallings was elected in June 2023. She gave her inaugural lecture on Monday, 20 November 2023 at 5.30pm in Examination Schools on the topic of 'The Bat Poet: Poetry as Echolocation'.

A.E. Stallings is an American poet who studied Classics at the University of Georgia and Oxford. She has published four collections of poetry, Archaic SmileHapax, and Olives, and most recently, Like, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. She has published three verse translations, Lucretius's The Nature of Things (in rhyming fourteeners!), Hesiod's Works and Days, and an illustrated The Battle Between the Frogs and the Mice. A selected poems, This Afterlife, is just out from FSG in the US and Carcanet in the UK.

The Bat Poet: Poetry as Echolocation

A.E. Stallings' inaugural lecture as Professor of Poetry.

https://podcasts.ox.ac.uk/embed/e12f1e7d-76e4-4f67-9bf8-3a3b6b14598d

 

Alice Oswald lectures

Our previous Professor of Poetry was Alice Oswald.

You can watch or listen to Professor Oswald's online lectures below. 

Counterblast! (a manifesto for poetry) – audio only via the Oxford University podcast site

Counterblast poster grey and white smoke explosion

Listen to the audio recording of Counterblast! on the University podcast site.

View a transcript of the talk

Anonymous and Onymous (audio only via the Oxford University podcast site) 

Listen to the audio recording of The Life and Death of Poetry on the University podcast site.

The Life and Death of Poetry (audio only via the Oxford University podcast site) 

Listen to the audio recording of The Life and Death of Poetry on the University podcast site.

View a transcript of the talk

A Lament for the Earth (audio only via the Oxford University podcast site) 

Listen to the audio recording of A Lament for the Earth on the University podcast site.

View a transcript of the talk

In Sleep A King (audio only via the Oxford University podcast site) 

Listen to the audio recording of In Sleep A King on the University podcast site.

View a transcript of the talk.

Sidelong Glances

 

On Behalf of a Pebble

 

Lines

 

Interview with Water