'Larkin's presence is still felt but that wasn't on my mind when I accepted'

November 23, 2007

An eminent writer has joined Hull University, which has played to host some of Britain's best-known poets. The opportunity to inspire budding writers has enticed one of the country's most eminent poets into academe.

Christopher Reid, 58, has been appointed professor of creative writing at Hull University. It is the first time that he has been associated with a university since he graduated from Exeter College, Oxford, in 1971.

Since then he has gained an international reputation as a poet, writing nine books and two anthologies, before serving for eight years as poetry editor at publishers Faber and Faber.

"I've always enjoyed teaching but have never taught undergraduates before," he explains. "So when I was approached by Hull I thought it would be a very interesting thing to do. It was time to rejuvenate my life."

His role will involve teaching at all levels and co-ordinating the Philip Larkin Centre for Poetry and Creative Writing. Larkin was a librarian at Hull; Poet Laureate Andrew Motion was a lecturer.

"Larkin's presence is still very much felt around here but that wasn't on my mind when I accepted the job. I actually think that he would take a very wry view of my appointment."

Mr Reid was at the forefront of the Martian school of poetry in the 1980s. He worked closely with then-Poet Laureate Ted Hughes over many years, recently releasing a collection of Hughes' previously unpublished letters - a labour of love that took four years to complete.

He also hopes that some new poetry of his own will be completed soon. "But it's actually bad magic to talk about this. I will not give away anything where writing is concerned."

And, how, after all these years, is he finding university life? "Hull obviously doesn't resemble my memories of Oxford at all. But these days, of course, you have to be quite serious about administration."

As for teaching, "I haven't had any complaints yet," he reports.

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