Yeats brothers lecture in Sligo

Nora Niland Lecture 2016

‘Horsemen for companions’: the Yeats brothers

Adrian Paterson, NUI Galway

7.30 Friday 10 June

The Model Sligo

Free event followed by wine and bites

8 Saint Colman

Dun Emer Industries: Banner for St Brendan’s Cathedral Loughrea (1903). Design by Jack B. Yeats, execution by Lily Yeats and workers of the Dun Emer.

‘Without contraries is no progression’, W.B. Yeats liked to repeat, following William Blake. Born to the most influential artistic family ever to come out of Ireland, the Yeats brothers, the poet W.B. and Jack B. the painter, are contrary characters and contrary artists, but share many things: a deep feeling for place, a delight in idiosyncracy, a gift for expression, and utter artistic seriousness. Thinking about them together sheds new light on both. Their lifelong connection survived disagreements political, artistic, familial, and temperamental, and produced a fascinating series of artistic collaborations from early days around kitchen table with their talented sisters, through a fascination with Irish stories and characters, to the later, magnificent series of Broadsides. It is sometimes forgotten that Jack B.Yeats was also a writer, while his brother started life as a visual artist, while the interest of both in theatre and in song never wavered. Alongside its A Broadside exhibition which features Jack B. Yeats’s prints and ballads, and a new display of the irreplaceable Niland Collection, The Model Sligo hosts the 2016 inaugural Nora Niland Lecture exploring their artistic connections and collaborations.

Dr Adrian Paterson is a Lecturer in English at the National University of Ireland, Galway. A graduate of Worcester College, Oxford, and Trinity College, Dublin, he is the author of the forthcoming Words for Music: W.B. Yeats and Musical Sense and the curator of Yeats & the West, an exhibition hosted by the James Hardiman Library at NUI Galway, The Model, Sligo, and shortly to open at Thoor Ballylee. A member of the steering group for Yeats2015, he has published widely on nineteenth and twentieth century art and literature with a particular interest in the artistic interactions of modernism and the fin-de-siècle.

yeatsandthewest.org

About Nora Niland 

Inaugural Nora Niland Lecture 2016

For the first time Nora Niland will be publicly honoured at a special event which will take place during the Yeats Day celebrations this year.  Born in 1913 in the townland of Ballinastak near Tuam, Co Galway, Nora was a graduate of English and Irish literature from NUI Galway.

She moved to Sligo in 1945 where she took up the position of Sligo County Librarian. It was then that she began to draw greater attention to the links between Sligo and the influential Yeats family.  In 1959 Nora borrowed five paintings by Jack Butler Yeats to exhibit for the first Yeats Summer School. During the exhibition, Niland began to feel that the paintings should remain in Sligo and so she set about raising the £3,000 needed to purchase them in the hope of establishing a public art collection for the county. Two years later her determination paid off, and The Niland Collection was born.

Through her efforts Sligo Corporation acquired significant holdings of material relating to the Yeats family and it is now one of Ireland’s most substantial public art collections.  The Jack B. Yeats paintings were then housed, together with other Yeats family material and artworks, in a special room in Sligo County Library.

Paintings by the Yeats family feature prominently in the Niland collection with almost fifty works by Jack B. Yeats, nineteen portraits by his father John Butler Yeats, as well as works by Jack’s wife Mary Cottenham Yeats, and his sister Elizabeth Yeats.  The collection has an emphasis on the northwest of Ireland and features many artists who are linked to the area including Patrick Collins, Sean McSweeney, Patrick Hall and Nick Miller.mIt also features pieces of work by Norah McGuinness, Mary Swanzy, Sean Keating, Gerard Dillon, Paul Henry and Louis le Brocquy.

In 2002 a further 30 works of Irish art were generously lent on a long-term basis by the collector Jobst Graeve. The Niland Collection has now grown to over 300 works and is cared for by, and displayed at, The Model Niland Gallery on the Mall in Sligo.
Nora Niland never married and when she retired she returned to live in her native Ballinastack.  She died in 1988 and sadly failed to get to see her dreams of a gallery to house her pictures come to fruition.

To celebrate her contribution in creating this prestigious art collection for Sligo, The Inaugural Nora Niland Lecture in association with NUIG, will take place on Friday, June 10th at 7.30pm in the Model Niland Gallery.  It will be presented by Dr Adrian Paterson, a lecturer in English at NUI Galway and a member of the Yeats2015 committee.

He will be joined by renowned Jack B. Yeats scholar Dr Hilary Pyle at a special Yeats Salon from 9.30pm.

Talk at Yeats & the West: The Theatre of Jack B. Yeats

A Vaudeville of Frustration: The Theatre of Jack B. Yeats

Public Talk

with

Dr Ian Walsh, NUI Galway

6pm Thursday 5 May

The Model Theatre, Sligo

La La Noo (2)

Alongside The Model’s Niland collection, and the exhibitions Yeats & the West and A Broadside this talk uncovers the rarely-read and even more rarely-performed plays of Jack B. Yeats, Ireland’s greatest painter. Beginning with children’s miniature theatre productions, voiced and written by the artist and for which he drew and designed stage, set, and characters with piratical cast, Jack B. Yeats always aimed athwart at conventional theatre. He developed an idiosyncratic theatrical voice that was both distinctive, and distinctively modernist, not quite like anything ever seen or heard in or out of the theatre. Despite Jack Yeats’s earlier close association with J.M.Synge, plays that were not accepted by his brother’s Abbey Theatre found a further life alongside his brother’s at Mary O’Malley’s Lyric Theatre Belfast. From Harlequin’s Positions and In Sand to The Green Wave and La La Noo, Jack Yeats’s drama engages directly with his artistic practice, often referencing his paintings and broadsides, and directly influenced Beckett’s absurdist dramaturgy.

Lyric Yeats brothers copy

Ian Walsh is Lecturer in Drama, Theatre, and Performance at NUI Galway. His monograph Experimental Irish Theatre After W.B Yeats was published in 2012 by Palgrave Macmillan. In 2015 his collection The Theatre of Enda Walsh co-edited with Mary Caulfield was released, the first critical collection on the plays and films of Enda Walsh. He has published widely on Irish theatre and has given invited talks across Ireland, Germany and the United States. Ian is also preparing a monograph on Popular Irish Theatre. Professional directing credits include Purple Path to the Poppy Field ( Hora Prima, 2006) and The Magic Flute (2011), Orfeo Ed Eurydice (2010), Riders to the Sea and The Wandering Scholar (2009) all for DLR Glasthule Opera.

WP_20160324_15_26_38_Pro

Ian Walsh appears in conversation with the curator of Yeats & the West, and Archivist in the James Hardiman Library at NUI Galway, Barry Houlihan.

Dr Adrian Paterson, NUI Galway, and curator of the exhibition, Donal Tinney, Chairperson of The Model, John Cox, NUIG, and Barry Houlihan, NUIG, at the NUI Galway Launch of Yeats & the West Exhibition at The Model, Sligo. Photo: James Connolly 24MAR16

Dr Adrian Paterson, NUI Galway, and curator of the exhibition, Donal Tinney, Chairperson of The Model, John Cox, NUIG, and Barry Houlihan, NUIG, at the NUI Galway Launch of Yeats & the West Exhibition at The Model, Sligo.
Photo: James Connolly
24MAR16

Yeats and the West logo

Yeats & the West Exhibition Tours & Talks

Curators Tours 1pm. Public Talks 6pm.

Free entry

 The Model, Sligo

Tours Thursday at 1pm

Tours of the exhibition from the curators take place every Thursday at 1pm.  Find out what makes art and poetry so close, and observe the connection of books, and music, drama, and discover never before seen rare books and fine art from the collections of NUI Galway and The Model. Come and get an inside view of the crafts and cultures that made a western revolution.

Emer McGarry, Acting Director, The Model, Cllr. Thomas Healy, Dr Jim Browne , President of NUI Galway, Martin Enright, President of Yeats Society, Sligo, Dr Adrian Paterson, NUI Galway, and curator of the exhibition, Senator Susan O'Keeffe, Ciaran Hayes, Sligo County Manager, Barry Houlihan, NUIG, Donal Tinney, Chairperson of The Model, and John Cox, NUIG, at the NUI Galway Launch of Yeats & the West Exhibition at The Model, Sligo. Photo: James Connolly 24MAR16

Emer McGarry, Acting Director, The Model, Cllr. Thomas Healy, Dr Jim Browne , President of NUI Galway, Martin Enright, President of Yeats Society, Sligo, Dr Adrian Paterson, NUI Galway, and curator of the exhibition, Senator Susan O’Keeffe, Ciaran Hayes, Sligo County Manager, Barry Houlihan, NUIG, Donal Tinney, Chairperson of The Model, and John Cox, NUIG, at the NUI Galway Launch of Yeats & the West Exhibition at The Model, Sligo.
Photo: James Connolly
24MAR16

Talks Thursdays at 6pm

This series of talks on Yeats’s connection to the west and beyond takes us inside the makings of a western cultural revolution. Talks from experts in the field range from exploring the pioneering art and craftwork of the Yeats family to W.B.Yeats’s own life and loves, considering his some of his most controversial and sexy poems; they reveal the extraordinary plays of his brother, the artist Jack B. Yeats, and alongside the Model Gallery’s newly unveiled Broadside collection, showcase his design and print work; and they weigh the wider forces that turned a cultural revolution into a real one.

Speakers include the curators of the exhibition Dr Adrian Paterson and Barry Houlihan (NUI Galway), Professor Adrian Frazier (NUI Galway), Professor Margaret Mills Harper (University of Limerick and outgoing Director of the Yeats International Summer School), Dr Hilary Pyle (former Yeats Curator at National Gallery of Ireland), Dr Ian Walsh (NUI Galway), Dr Mary Harris (NUI Galway).

Yeats and the West logo

All talks take place every Thursday at 6pm in the Model Theatre.

7 April – ‘Lake Isles, River Eyots: making Innisfree with the Yeats family’

Adrian Paterson, English, NUI Galway

14 April – ‘A Disturbing Influence: Maud Gonne in the life of W.B. Yeats’

Adrian Frazier, English, NUI Galway

21 April – ‘Jack B. Yeats’s A Broadside: a sheaf of ballads or a battery of guns?’

Hilary Pyle, former Yeats Curator at the National Gallery of Ireland

28 April – ‘W.B. Yeats and the Problem of Crazy Jane’

Margaret Mills Harper, University of Limerick, & outgoing Director of the Yeats International Summer School

5 May – ‘A Vaudeville of Frustration: The Theatre of Jack B. Yeats’.

Ian Walsh, Centre for Drama Theatre and Performance, NUI Galway

12 May – ‘Romanticism and Realism: Pearse, MacNeill, the Revival and the Rising’

Mary Harris, History, NUI Galway

For schools events Thursdays  enquire schoolvisits@nuigalway.ie

The Model opening hours

Tues-Sat: 10am – 5.30pm

Thurs: 10am – 8pm

Sun: 12 – 5pm

Mon: Closed

Yeats and the West logo

Yeats & the West talks at The Model, Sligo

Lake Isles, River Eyots: Making Innisfree with the Yeats Family
Public Talk 

 Adrian Paterson, NUI Galway

6pm Thursday 7 April

The Model Theatre, Sligo

23 Saint Patrick

This talk looks at Yeats’s most famous poem and asks where it comes from, and where it goes to.  It examines the new kinds of crafts and making from the Yeats family, in west London as well as the west of Ireland.

WP_20160324_16_52_15_Pro

Curator of the exhibition Yeats & the West, Dr Adrian Paterson is a Lecturer in English at NUI Galway. He appears in conversation with the co-curator Barry Houlihan.

Dr Adrian Paterson – NUI Galway and curator of the exhibition, speaking at the NUI Galway Launch of Yeats & the West Exhibition at The Model, Sligo. Photo: James Connolly 24MAR16

Dr Adrian Paterson – NUI Galway and curator of the exhibition, speaking at the NUI Galway Launch of Yeats & the West Exhibition at The Model, Sligo.
Photo: James Connolly
24MAR16

Yeats and the West logo

Yeats & the West Exhibition Tours & Talks

Curators Tours 1pm. Public Talks 6pm.

Free entry

 The Model, Sligo

Tours Thursday at 1pm

Tours of the exhibition from the curators take place every Thursday at 1pm.  Find out what makes art and poetry so close, and observe the connection of books, and music, drama, and discover never before seen rare books and fine art from the collections of NUI Galway and The Model. Come and get an inside view of the crafts and cultures that made a western revolution.

WP_20160324_16_56_11_Pro

Talks Thursdays at 6pm

This series of talks on Yeats’s connection to the west and beyond takes us inside the makings of a western cultural revolution. Talks from experts in the field range from exploring the pioneering art and craftwork of the Yeats family to W.B.Yeats’s own life and loves, considering his some of his most controversial and sexy poems; they reveal the extraordinary plays of his brother, the artist Jack B. Yeats, and alongside the Model Gallery’s newly unveiled Broadside collection, showcase his design and print work; and they weigh the wider forces that turned a cultural revolution into a real one.

Speakers include the curators of the exhibition Dr Adrian Paterson and Barry Houlihan (NUI Galway), Professor Adrian Frazier (NUI Galway), Professor Margaret Mills Harper (University of Limerick and outgoing Director of the Yeats International Summer School), Dr Hilary Pyle (former Yeats Curator at National Gallery of Ireland), Dr Ian Walsh (NUI Galway), Dr Mary Harris (NUI Galway).

Yeats and the West logo

All talks take place every Thursday at 6pm in the Model Theatre.

7 April – ‘Lake Isles, River Eyots: making Innisfree with the Yeats family’

Adrian Paterson, English, NUI Galway

14 April – ‘A Disturbing Influence: Maud Gonne in the life of W.B. Yeats’

Adrian Frazier, English, NUI Galway

21 April – ‘Jack B. Yeats’s A Broadside: a sheaf of ballads or a battery of guns?’

Hilary Pyle, former Yeats Curator at the National Gallery of Ireland

28 April – ‘W.B. Yeats and the Problem of Crazy Jane’

Margaret Mills Harper, University of Limerick, & outgoing Director of the Yeats International Summer School

Meg Harper

5 May – ‘A Vaudeville of Frustration: The Theatre of Jack B. Yeats’.

Ian Walsh, Centre for Drama Theatre and Performance, NUI Galway

12 May – ‘Romanticism and Realism: Pearse, MacNeill, the Revival and the Rising’

Mary Harris, History, NUI Galway

For schools events Thursdays  enquire schoolvisits@nuigalway.ie

The Model opening hours

Tues – Sat: 10am – 5.30pm

Thurs: 10am – 8pm

Sun: 12 – 5pm

Mon: Closed

Yeats and the West logo

Western Worlds day at Yeats & the West

yeats-and-the-west-logo[1]

William Butler Yeats, poet, playwright, politician, and Nobel prize-winner for literature, always looked west. The Yeats & the West exhibition at NUI Galway, with rare books, art, music, drama, and film, discovers what the west meant to him, and what this means for us. As part of the Yeats & the West programme, on Friday 27th November the day-long event Western Worlds tells the story of the western cultural revolution that shaped modern Ireland. Featuring talks on W.B.Yeats’s poems, plays, artistic collaborations and love affairs, and featuring his co-conspirators Jack B. Yeats, J.M. Synge, Padraic Pearse and Eva Gore Booth, it includes poetry readings, an exhibition highlights tour, and an exclusive interview with the artist John Behan about current exhibitions of Yeatsian-themed sculptures and drawings. Western Worlds tells a story of going west to find those places, real and imaginative, that change our sense of where and who we are.

Western Worlds: A Day at Yeats & the West

Yeats & the West

Bridge Seminar Room, Hardiman Research Building, NUI Galway

Friday 27th November 2015

Entrance to all events is free.

10.45am Welcome (& Kisses)

Adrian Frazier  Yeats & Maud Gonne: The Meaning of Their Kisses

12pm   Poems

Brian Arkins    W.B.Yeats & G.M. Hopkins

Deirdre Ní Chonghaile  ‘Listening to this rude and beautiful poetry’: J.M. Synge as song collector in the Aran Islands

1pm       Lunch

2pm       Plays                                                                      

Barry Houlihan ‘Suffering Spirits and Remorseful Dead’: Remembrance and Re-enactments in the plays of W.B. Yeats

Ian Walsh The Painted Play: Jack B. Yeats and the Postdramatic Theatre

3pm   Revivals

Mary Harris   Realism, Idealism and the Gaelic Revival

Maureen O’Connor   Some Vague Utopia: Eva Gore-Booth’s The Death of Fionavar (1916)

4pm   Coffee

4.30  Arts

Adrian Paterson with Barry Houlihan  (curators of Yeats & the West) Yeats among the Arts: exhibition highlights tour

(from 5pm in Special Collections)

5.30pm   Poems

David Clare & Deirdre Clare   dramatic readings

6.30pm  Reception

7pm   Bulls

John Behan  The Bull of Sheriff Street in conversation

Yeats & West Poster11

Yeats & the West opens!

Prof. Daniel Carey, Ronnie O’Gorman, Sen. Fidelma Healy Eames, Sen. Susan O’Keeffe, and Dr. Adrian Paterson, at the launch of the ‘Yeats & the West: an exhibition of western worlds’ at Hardiman Research Building, NUI Galway, 13 July 2015.

Prof. Daniel Carey, Ronnie O’Gorman and Sen. Fidelma Healy Eames of the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society, Sen. Susan O’Keeffe, and Dr. Adrian Paterson, at the launch of the ‘Yeats & the West: an exhibition of western worlds’ at Hardiman Research Building, NUI Galway, 13 July 2015.

Monday 13th June saw the official opening of Yeats and the West: an exhibition of western worlds. Coinciding with the launch of the Galway International Arts festival, the exhibition was opened in style with the help of some very special guests, including the poet Moya Cannon. Yeats and the West logo The exhibition featuring a number of talks and events runs through December 2015 and is free to the public. Members of the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society joined the celebrations, which included speeches from NUI Galway President Dr Jim Browne, Professor Daniel Carey, the curators Barry Houlihan and Adrian Paterson, Senator Susan O’Keeffe, Librarian John Cox, and the special guest Moya Cannon.

Senator Susan O'Keeffe with curator Adrian Paterson

Senator Susan O’Keeffe with curator Adrian Paterson

The exhibition featuring a number of talks and events runs through December 2015 and is free to the public. It highlights the work of Jack B. Yeats, the Yeats sisters, and Lady Gregory in a western context.  Further details here, including particular tributes to the importance of landscape, place, and architecture in Yeats’s work and in the contemporary activity of the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society. 1978 10th anniversary

Yeats & the West: new NUI Galway exhibition

Wall Vinyl 1 B (1)

William Butler Yeats, poet, playwright, politician, and Nobel prize-winner for literature always looked west. As part of Ireland ’s decade of commemorations and the worldwide Yeats2015 series of cultural events marking his 150th birthday, NUI Galway’s Moore Institute and Hardiman Library presents Yeats & the West, a collaborative exhibition exploring Yeats’s life, work, and legacy, and his deep connections to the west. Yeats & the West considers what the west meant to him, and what that means for us. For fuller information, visit the website. 

4plays dancers

For Yeats the west was the wellspring of songs, stories, folklore, artwork, drama, crafts; the foundation of the Irish imagination. It was also the landscape of his poetry and plays. Significant events of his life took place there; collaborations that formed his work were forged there. Yeats & the West tells this remarkable story.

8 Saint Colman

This interactive exhibition features original watercolour sketches and oils by W.B.Yeats’s brother, the celebrated artist Jack Yeats, priceless Cuala Press volumes and broadsides, a wealth of visual material from artists and photographers from Fergus Bourke to Nicolas Fève, and rarely seen images and manuscripts from archive collections in NUI Galway and around the world. Through rare books, original documents, and artworks, and using modern touchscreens, recorded sound, and exclusive film, visitors take a tour of Yeats’s commitment to history, tradition, and new art, all under western eyes. Talks and special events feature throughout the exhibition’s spectacular run from June to December 2015.

Yeats and the West logo

June – December 2015

Hardiman Research Building

NUI Galway

Free admission

Open 9-5 Mon – Sat. (9-5 Mon-Fri until 20 July)

Yeats & the West tells the story of the places and people that made a western cultural revolution.

Wall Vinyl 2

On display is W.B.Yeats’s attention to life, love, and landscape in Galway, Sligo, and beyond. Yeats & the West details the many artistic collaborations that centred on Coole Park, Galway between artists of the western world. It follows the foundation of the Abbey Theatre in Galway, and Yeats’s work with J.M.Synge, George Moore and Edward Martyn, using exclusive materials from the Lady Gregory Collection, the Abbey Digital Archive, and the Lyric Theatre Belfast. It explores his obsession with local poet Antoine Ó Raifteiri, and highlights the gifted artists of Yeats’s own family, whose pioneering work is showcased in exquisite handprinted books and in embroidery from Loughrea cathedral.

Panel 2 C

Yeats’s restoration of Thoor Ballylee, Galway, is seen alongside the construction of his own poetry, and the effects of revolution and civil war on his work and the west is put starkly on view with manuscripts from the National Library of Ireland, and rare books and photographs. Collaborations with his artist brother Jack Yeats are illustrated with newly exhibited sketches and exquisite colour prints. Yeats & the West even tracks his furthest forays west, following him and the Abbey players as they cross the Atlantic and bring back with them a renewed idea of the breadth of the western world.

Panel 7C

Through images, words, film, and sound, with interactive touchscreens, panels, and rich display cases, using valuable material from the university’s collections and from around the world, Yeats & the West tells anew an old story: a story of going west to find those places, real and imaginative, that change our sense of where and who we are.

The exhibition runs from June to December 2015 in the Hardiman Building, NUI Galway with special events throughout.

With special thanks to the Moore Institute, Hardiman Library, NUI Galway’s President’s Office, Galway City Museum, the National Library of Ireland, Loughrea Cathedral, the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society, and Yeats2015.

Window visualisation

Dead poet’s society?

(The following article by Adrian Paterson about the Yeats2015 celebrations and the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society appeared in the Irish Times on 10 February 2015. It is reproduced here with permission.)

WB Yeats

Joyous and recalcitrant, Yeats’s voice still resonates

This year sees a worldwide series of creative and cultural events celebrating the 150th anniversary of the birth of William Butler Yeats. Launched by Senator Susan O’Keeffe and Minister for the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys as part of Ireland’s decade of commemorations, Yeats2015 gives the anniversary decade a new focus.

But why remember, of all things, a dead poet? What good can calling Yeats from the dead do us?

Yeats himself thought a lot about life after death, and his poems ask nagging questions of those beyond the grave. Fittingly, Yeats2015 might just prove the most lively of all the commemorations.

It is the only one that celebrates a birth, rather than remembering an event of sober historical record. It is the only one exclusively devoted to artistic achievement, so central to this island’s story.

It is locally driven but international in scope, with events centred on places important to Yeats, such as Galway, Sligo, Dublin, London, and further afield, Paris, Utrecht, Madrid, Atlanta, Melbourne, Tokyo, Beijing.

Yeats today is respected rather than loved. His unassailable position on the Leaving Cert syllabus has not resulted in the universal affection of schoolchildren, among whom this self-confessed “smiling public man” walked and dreamed of loves and loss.

An association with Ascendancy Protestantism (which doesn’t cloud opinion of Samuel Beckett or his own brother, the artist Jack Yeats) underplays his own radically unorthodox beliefs, and the down-at-heel origins of a young man who used to ink his feet to hide the holes in his socks.

Yeats is seen as lofty, aloof, abstract, when in fact he was engaged, committed, sensual. But we don’t have to like Yeats to listen. We don’t have to agree with him to learn something. Yeats would have loathed a hagiography and Yeats2015 will not be one. His is a bountiful, contradictory shade that deserves to be called up and questioned again.

Dates mattered to Yeats. For him, the whirlings of moons and midnights set in train the larger forces of history and creativity this commemorative decade is designed to mark.

Revolutionary decade

It is hard to imagine that revolutionary decade without him. Those repeating the lines “Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone,/ It’s with O’Leary in the grave” sometimes forget that September 1913, first published in this newspaper, is an impassioned defence of modern art, a frontal attack on those who thought progress was a new road bridge over the Liffey and breaking the unions rather than workers’ rights and a free public gallery.

Easter 1916 commemorates the rebels’ sacrifice but questions it too, painfully acknowledging the ambiguity of founding a state on violent insurrection. The War of Independence sparked the savage Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen, which condemns violence against the person and against art, yet acknowledges our thirst and culpability for both.

These poems may name dates but have not become dated. Like them, The Second Coming knows intimately the horrors of the 20th century, perhaps explaining the poem’s prescience even today. Slavoj Zizek is among countless public figures to cite it, arguing in response to the recent Parisian murders that it “seems perfectly to render our present predicament: ‘The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity’.”

Meditations in Time of Civil War, meanwhile, wrests from the Troubles a lyric Seamus Heaney felt still mattered: its refrain “O honey-bees – Come build in the empty house of the stare” pleads for peace to a deafened world.

That bloody decade made Ireland, but it also made Yeats as a poet. Facing a new reality he turned a personal midlife crisis into spare, unflinching public poems whose powerful lines and pressing concerns still sound like tolling bells.

However we think of Yeats, poetic achievement must be at the heart of any commemoration. But Yeats was more than a poet. He was a cultural revolutionary who became a cultural entrepreneur. He began things, co-founding the Abbey Theatre, the Irish Literary Society and, with his talented family, the Cuala Press, producing designs and books from a single hand-press in Dublin.

He was anything but a solitary dreamer: his collaborations with musicians, actors, dramatists, stage designers, folklorists, journalists, artists, dancers, printers, occultists, broadcasters and lovers are reflected in the vibrant range of celebratory events on offer.

A disturbing late flirtation with authoritarian politics remains rightly controversial and must cause us to reflect on the role of the arts in a democratic society. As a working politician, however, Yeats was a liberal and his conception of the nation strikingly diverse. As a senator he promoted Irish-language research, while questioning compulsory Irish. Citing cross-Border unity and minority rights he argued for long-established rights to divorce, only recently restored.

Yeats radio mike

Defender of free speech

He defended free speech against religious interests, denouncing censorship and mocking the new State’s “committee for evil literature”. He was in principle a European, trading in a global artistic currency; but in practice a localist, insistent on self-determination. The coinage commission he chaired produced animal designs that lasted until the coming of the euro.

His poems honour the Irish landscape. You might even say his shade balefully haunts our ghost estates: an alternative to profligate new-builds and property booms is shown by the careful restoration of a Hiberno-Norman tower in Galway with local labour and materials, wood, thatch, ironwork, and slates. This year of all years it must be hoped the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society receives support for its reopening.

WB Yeats was a vortex of energy, a protean, recalcitrant, joyous figure who believed in the value of art to shape a nation and to change the world. Perhaps, for a year, we should join this dead poet’s society and see what happens.

Adrian Paterson is a lecturer in English at NUI Galway and a member of the Yeats2015 steering committee and the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society.

Yeats International Summer School 2015 programme

One of the highlights of the Yeats2015 programme will be an extra special summer school. The 56th Annual Yeats International Summer School is set to run from 26th July to 7th August, 2015, in Sligo, Ireland.

With patron Catriona Yeats, director Meg Harper (University of Limerick), and associate director Matthew Campbell (University of York), the annual festivities in Sligo will celebrate the poet’s sesquicentennial in style. A roundtable of former Summer School directors, including Helen Vendler, Denis Donoghue, James Pethica, and Elizabeth Butler Cullingford, will be foremost in this summer’s special events.

The line-up of speakers is equally impressive and it includes David Lloyd, John Paul Riquelme, Vincent Sherry, Joseph Valente, Catherine Paul, Frank Shovlin, Frank Lentricchia, Denis Donoghue, Eamonn Hughes, Marjorie Howes, Hannah Sullivan, Warwick Gould, Ann Fogarty, and Alexandra Poulain.

Attending the summer school is a rewarding experience involving morning lectures, afternoon seminars, and enriching cultural events in the evenings.

For more information, see the website of the hosts, Yeats Society Sligo.

Yeats Society

Yeats2015

Yeats 2015

In 2015 Ireland celebrates the 150th anniversary of the birth of the Nobel Prize-winning poet, William Butler Yeats. As part of Ireland’s decade of commemorations, a worldwide series of creative and cultural events takes place throughout the year to mark this occasion, honouring and exploring his rich life, work, and legacy. The programme was launched in Dublin in December by Senator Susan O’Keefe and the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphries. The launch also featured a reading by Olwen Fouere of ‘Sailing to Byzantium’, and was attended by members of the Yeats Thoor Ballylee SocietyAn RTE report of the event can be viewed here.

Yeats 2015 presents a local, national, and international series of exhibitions, performances, educational events, festivals, concerts, readings, talks, and screenings. Cultural events centred on Sligo, Galway, Dublin, London, and in counties across Ireland, are echoed in a diverse international programme. Through the prism of one of Ireland’s greatest artists, Yeats 2015 marks a moment to celebrate and promote creativity in Ireland and elsewhere, and to reconsider the role of culture, community, and the arts in the contemporary world. Full details of how to get involved in this exciting cultural programme are released in January 2015. The re-opening of Thoor Ballylee is at the heart of these commemorations. Galway is at the heart of these celebrations and a full programme of Galway Yeats2015 events is available here.

 

The Poet

W. B. Yeats is Ireland’s greatest poet, and considered by many the finest poet of the twentieth century. Seamus Heaney noted that as well as a great poet he was both the founder and inheritor of traditions: with a lifelong interest in the occult and in Irish mythology, an openness to European art and eastern philosophy, and with a sceptical, questioning intellect, he brought a revolutionary new voice into Irish literature. A maker of extraordinary love poems and an architect of modernism, Yeats is unusual among poets in that much of his best work came after the age of fifty. The way he put words together changed utterly: from an early lush lyricism, he developed a spare, hard, late style, and many of his most powerful lines have entered the language. Such an uncompromising attitude to creative excellence was a part of his inheritance. He was born into an extraordinarily talented artistic family: his father John Butler Yeats was a renowned portraitist, his sisters were innovative craftworkers and printers, and his brother Jack Yeats became Ireland’s most celebrated painter. His unrequited love for the beautiful Maud Gonne affected the course of his life, while his collaboration with his wife George altered the texture of his poetry. More than a poet, Yeats was a dramatist, a critic, a journalist, a politician, and a founder of theatres, print houses, dance companies, and artistic societies. With its diverse programme of events, Yeats 2015 celebrates this rich cultural harvest.

 

The Places

W. B. Yeats’s profound connection with landscape and architecture served as inspiration for many of his greatest works. Ireland is the setting for nearly all his poems and plays, whether the city’s ‘grey eighteenth-century houses’ or the stones and trees of the west. Born in Dublin, Yeats went to school in Dublin and London, and spent much of his young life with his family in Sligo, which he thought of as his spiritual home. In later life he lived in Dublin, London, and put down deep roots in County Galway, spending summers at Coole Park and restoring a Hiberno-Norman tower, Thoor Ballylee, as his family home. As well as travelling extensively in France, Spain, Italy, and the United States, Yeats was deeply affected by eastern art and philosophy, especially that of Japan and India. Yeats 2015 celebrates the strong connection he had will all the places that inspired him.Galway is therefore at the heart of these celebrations, with a full programme of exciting artistic and cultural events taking place throughout the county. It is intended also that the re-opening of Thoor Ballylee will be a central part of these celebrations.

 

The Legacy

Yeats was the first Irishman to be awarded the Nobel Prize, in 1923. He accepted on behalf of his work for the Abbey Theatre, Ireland’s national theatre which he co-founded with Lady Augusta Gregory. Such artistic generosity was not unusual. Yeats was a cultural revolutionary who become a remarkable cultural entrepreneur. A spearhead of what became known as the Irish Literary Revival, he spurred a revival of interest in Irish mythology and in Irish literature, and was for a time deeply involved in the nationalist movement. His work explored the complexities of the formation of the new state and helped give expression to a new Irish identity. Passionate about artistic freedoms and minority rights, he made speeches against censorship and supporting the long-established right to divorce when appointed a Senator of the Irish Free State in 1922. Yeats also chaired the commission for coinage, which produced renowned designs of Irish animals on currency in use until 2001. His increasing identification with a Protestant tradition and his brief flirtation with authoritarian politics remains controversial. But most of all he promoted new art, championing writers as diverse as James Joyce, Frank O’Connor, and J. M. Synge, working with an astonishing variety of artists, actors, musicians, theatre designers, printmakers,  producers, and dancers. From his founding of the ground-breaking Cuala Press to his pioneering work as a radio broadcaster, his legacy is just as varied. His belief in art’s power – that words could change the world – makes his example still powerfully resonant today.

 

Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society members with a copy of Yeats's The Tower (1928) at the Yeats2015 launch with Senator Susan O'Keeffe and Minister Heather Humphries

Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society members with Yeats’s The Tower (1928) at the Yeats2015 launch with Senator Susan O’Keeffe and Minister Heather Humphries