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Oxford’s poetry revolution

Forty years ago, inspired by the 1968 revolts in Paris, I tried to get the glamorous Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko elected as Oxford's professor of poetry. Though our campaign failed, it somehow managed to suck in all the cultural currents of the time

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Occasionally an event, in itself trivial, captures the essence of a historical moment: the Boston tea party, the first performance of The Rite of Spring, the incarceration of Paris Hilton. In England, such episodes often take place in Oxford: John Henry Newman’s passage from Anglicanism to Rome in the 1840s; the king and country debate at the Union in 1933; the dons’ rejection of Margaret Thatcher for an honorary degree in 1985.

The non-election of Yevgeny Yevtushenko as professor of poetry in Oxford in 1968 was one such incident…

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