From The Guardian:
Alice Oswald has won the race to be Oxford’s latest professor of poetry. She will be the first woman to serve in the position, established more than 300 years ago.
Speaking to the Guardian after the announcement, Oswald said that after a “distinctly unsettling process” she was “very pleased, daunted, grateful to my nominators”.
“I look forward to thinking about all forms of poetry,” she said, “but particularly the fugitive airborne forms.”
Celebrated for their exploration of nature and myth, Oswald’s nine books of poetry have already brought her prizes including the TS Eliot, Griffin and Costa poetry awards. The former poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy has hailed her as “the best UK poet now writing, bar none”, while Jeanette Winterson has called her Ted Hughes’s “rightful heir”, a poet not “of footpaths and theme parks, but the open space and untamed life that waits for us to find it again”.
. . . .
Established in 1708, the Oxford position is one of the UK’s top accolades for poetry, with former professors including Seamus Heaney, Robert Graves and WH Auden. Candidates must win the support of at least 50 Oxford graduates and be “of sufficient distinction to be able to fulfil the duties of the post”, which include one lecture a term during an appointment lasting four years.
. . . .
The contest was marred by controversy surrounding [poet and Oxford contestant Todd] Swift, who founded the independent poetry imprint Eyewear Publishing in 2012. Last year the Bookseller reported that the firm’s contracts included clauses forbidding authors from contacting the Society of Authors, with the imprint’s behaviour on social media also attracting criticism. The poets Claire Trevien and Aaron Kent wrote to Oxford University suggesting Swift should be removed from the contest, arguing that he was “unsuitable for the role of Oxford professor of poetry, and the level of prestige it offers”.
Link to the rest at The Guardian
From The Bookseller, July 25, 2018:
Independent press Eyewear Publishing has drawn criticism from the Society of Authors (SoA) over its treatment of poets, including contracts “constituting an unwarranted interference with their civil rights”.
Poets have complained about some of the London-based press Eyewear’s contracts, seen in full by The Bookseller, demanding its authors not engage with the SoA which it said was “biased against small press publishing and unduly aggressive”.
. . . .
The contract clauses, seen in a contract from this year, state: “Under no circumstances shall the author refer these matters to ‘The Society of Authors’ as the publishers consider them biased against small press publishing and unduly aggressive.
“The author may not claim any breach on the grounds of ‘irreconcilable’ or ‘personal’ differences, unless these can be clearly documented over a period of time and only if the grounds are such as would normally end a marriage or other serious relationship – ‘rude emails’ or ‘hurt feelings’ are not enough.”
Solomon described the clauses as “extraordinary” and unprecedented and revealed that Eyewear poets had contacted the society in the past in need of assistance.
“To prohibit authors from contacting the SoA is to prevent them from taking independent advice from their trade union,” she told The Bookseller. “Not only is this unenforceable, it constitutes an unwarranted interference with their civil rights. The termination clause is also extraordinary – the fact that it explicitly mentions the possibility of the publisher sending ‘rude emails’ that cause ‘hurt feelings’ speaks for itself.
“The SoA’s role is to defend writers’ interests, and poets contacting us in the past about Eyewear contracts have always been grateful for our input. We have not seen a clause before now forbidding the author to speak to us. I would advise any author not to sign such a contract.”
Swift told The Bookseller the contract clauses were often deleted if a writer objected to them.
“Each contract we have signed since 2012 is bespoke, we try and base on industry standard templates,” he said. “They are all discussed with the authors. We are very short on resources and usually if authors object to a clause we delete.
. . . .
Last week Eyewear prompted a strong reaction on social media from its poets when it published a tweet saying: “In light of the decision by several Eyewear poets to happily announce new books with rival presses today without warning director [Todd Swift] has suspended all further poetry projects. Poets who abandon their debut presses do severe damage in terms of sales and funding to them.”
However, Swift told The Bookseller the since-deleted tweet had been “misread” and the poetry list would not be suspended.
Link to the rest at The Bookseller
PG is not familiar with any of the parties mentioned in either of the stories quoted above and cannot provide any personal reactions to the events described therein.
However, as a general proposition, when advising his clients, PG suggests that authors not sign contracts with any sort of overreaching provisions.
In the US, these include noncompete clauses by which an author agrees not to write, “any work which might compete” with the work the publisher is licensing from the author. Since the term of the associated contracts is typically “for the full term of Author’s copyright to the Work,” (which, in the US, is the life of the author plus 70 years) this is an attempt to effectively prohibit an author from ever writing another book on the same subject or within the same genre as the book subject to the publishing contract.
PG further suggests that, if a publisher is overreaching in its contracts, it may also treat an author badly in other aspects of the publisher/author relationship.