I remember sitting under Caribbean skies at the Preparatory Committee for the UN Law of the Sea Convention. As we discussed thorny compromises over the regime to govern extraction of minerals from the bed of the deep sea, my friend Dolliver Nelson would break into flights of poetry. As many Jamaican weeks were passed, Dolliver introduced me to the extraordinary passion for the English language of Caribbean intellectuals of his generation. It was through Dolliver that I started avid reading of CLR James and Derek Walcott.
Walcott is a great poet. It is appalling that the politically correct brigade have drummed him out of the election for Oxford Professor of Poetry.
We live in a society in which any expression of male heterosexuality seems to be anathematised. It appears sex is supposed to happen nowadays without the male ever suggesting it, either verbally or by caress.
Nothing has ever been proven against Walcott. The accusations, even if true, do not amount to anything near rape or forced physical abuse. It is alleged that he came on rather strongly, decades ago, and was rebuffed. It is alleged he was petulant after being rebuffed.
It would be difficult to find, for example, great visual artists who did not sleep with their models. Should we empty the National Gallery? Pretty well all the Pre-Raphaelites and Impressionists would have to go, for a start.
Burne Jones and Rosetti. Picasso, Degas, Gauguin? All appalling sexual harassers! Burn their paintings!
Ruth Padel comes out of this very badly. If she had any honour, she should resign. It is plain by her website she is a desperate self-promoter. Her latest poem centres on a fantasy of dominating the male:
his pair of ring-ridged horns, arcing back
like sabres. But mine are one metre fifty.
I force him down, rough him up
and suddenly as he came he is gone
If Padel’s talent only matched her ambition, she truly would be great. She is already Chair of the Poetry Society, and very much at the centre of the London clique of man-haters who were spreading the word against Walcott. Her protests now against the hate campaign are late and unconvincing.