29 NOVEMBER 1968, Page 29

Official rebel

Sir: I am surprised and saddened to see an exercise in character-assassination in the pages

46f the SPECTATOR. In this instance it seems to me that it is not the Soviet government, what- ever their sins or crimes, but a small clique of cold-warriors in this country who are using the name of Yevtushenko for the purposes of propaganda, and thereby dragging poetry in the dust.

His crime in their eyes appears to big that he is not serving seven years in a labour camp. Hav- ing read his poems (I wonder, have they? Have they ever read any poetry in their lives?) I find things in them that must have required real courage to write. As for his critics, I find this zeal for vicarious martyrdom emanating from the secure, the comfortable and the well- fed, as distasteful as anything which has occurred in this country since the war.

With regard to the Oxford Chair of Poetry, what counted for me was not just that he was a poet of distinction—so too were Roy Fuller and Kathleen Raine—but possessed of a flamboyance, a verve and an ability to speak for the young that could do nothing but good, and would have made his term of office an exciting one. For that reason, though profes- sionally much concerned with the financial crisis, I travelled sixty miles to vote for him.

I am delighted that the high vote he received suggests that the campaign of smears had small effect.