Laurie Taylor Column

June 8, 2007

"New attempts to introduce objective performance criteria in the humanities" - The Times Higher , June 1

The University of Poppleton

From: The Office of Quality Enhancement

To: The Poet in Residence

Dear Annabel Celandine,

As you will recall, you were appointed to this university as part of our new initiative (in collaboration with Poppleton Pork Products plc) to accord the arts a central position within the culture of this institution going forward.

At the time of your appointment, you were informed that your work would be subject to the performance targets and strategic imperatives of this university, and I am now writing with my committee's latest assessment.

In general, it was felt that your overall poetic output fell below expectations. Although a total of 35 poems in one year would seem to match comparable output in other disciplines, closer inspection revealed that the final number was artificially inflated by your frequent recourse to both the sonnet and the haiku form. (The committee chose to disregard your "uncompleted" epic.) There was also evidence of failure to align your poetry with the core values of this institution. The committee welcomed such attempts to meet this brief as your ode to the new incoming chancellor ("Hail to thee, new incoming Chancellor"), but it was felt that your elegy upon the closure of the philosophy department - "Fair Philosophy is dead, dead before its prime" - failed to take account of the institutional imperatives that lay behind recent departmental reorganisations.

Worries were also expressed about the derivative character of other institutional verses. In this respect, the committee singled out your lyric poem "Fair Open Day, we weep to see you close your stalls so soon", and the sonnet dedicated to the alliance between the deputy bursar and the head of conference bookings, "Let us not to the civil contract of two minds admit impediment".

It was also generally agreed that the merit of the poem for the vice-chancellor, which you recited with considerable vigour on degree day ("Let's talk of graves"), was somewhat vitiated by your unfortunate failure to distinguish between an encomium and an epitaph.

I hope this clarifies the situation.

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