Seamus Heaney landscape under threat

Road scheme ploughs through Anahorish & Mossbawn

Landscapes like those in Galway surrounding Thoor Ballylee and Coole Park or Patrick Kavanagh’s Inniskeen Co. Monaghan are not only important natural environments in themselves but a part of the world’s poetic heritage as surely as the Cumberland Lake District of Wordsworth and Coleridge.

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Like Yeats, Nobel-Prize winning poet Seamus Heaney is attached to  several landscapes, including the Broagh, Hillhead, Lagan’s Road and the Strand at Lough Beg. However his founding place is Anahorish, the south Derry townland to the west of Lough Neagh which features in some of the poet’s most famous works, including “Digging”, “Blackberry-Picking,” “Death of a Naturalist” and “Mid-term Break”. The poem “Anahorish” begins with a translation of Anach fhíor uisce, the Irish root of the townland’s name. It was, for Heaney, his “place of clear water,” which he called “the first hill in the world”. Bernard O’Donoghue, poet and Emeritus Fellow of Wadham College, Oxford, has said of Heaney that the “importance of his life experience to his poetry is a crucial part of Heaney’s work; he is often referred to as “a poet of place,” and Anahorish is central to that place”.

In October 2016 the Northern Irish government will begin to build a dual-carriageway road through Anahorish, setting for much of Heaney’s best-loved poetry, within about a hundred yards of Mossbawn, his family home. Before his death Heaney himself protested against the proposed road scheme, describing an alternative route through an old aerodrome where there is an industrial estate, as less of a “wound on the ecology.”

Heaney was a great friend to Yeats, Thoor Ballylee and the landscape of South Galway, and reportedly described the scheme as unthinkable as putting a motorway through Coole Park. Coole Park faces its own issues as the encroaching dual-carriageway sweeps just past its gates. It would seem that the poetic landscapes of the whole island of Ireland are under threat, just when the importance of culture and place is being widely re-affirmed in schemes like cities of culture (Derry 2013 and Galway 2020).

The revival of the road scheme is particularly poignant at a time when the Seamus Heaney HomePlace visitors centre in Bellaghy is due to open at the end of the month. Heaney died in Dublin in 2013 and is buried in Bellaghy. Work on the nearby dual-carriageway is due to begin in October.

Time is running out if the scheme is to be opposed. A petition against the road has been set up here at Change.org. Further news stories about the scheme can be viewed in the following from the New Statesman, Belfast Telegraph, and Irish News.

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The New York Times discovers Thoor Ballylee

As the weather starts to close in for winter, there are still some exciting events to attend at Thoor Ballylee, representing rare chances for visitors to view the interior of the tower during the winter months.  Here follows the opening of what The New York Times writer Dan Barry had to say about Thoor Ballylee. You can read more here.
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BALLYLEE, Ireland — In the County Galway parish of Kiltartan, in this bit of a place called Ballylee, a lichen-flecked tower rises from the wet ground to lord over cow and stream and the occasional otter. Its limestone walls shelter a protected species of bats, some field mice and a perpetual dampness evoking the must of the past.

The tower also harbors a significant piece of the legacy of William Butler Yeats, whose birth 150 years ago has been cause for a year of celebration throughout Ireland and the world. The poet spent many summers in the tower he christenedThoor Ballylee, and it inspired some of his most enduring work.

Over the years, though, the Norman tower has encountered natural challenges so daunting that the Irish government had to shut it down as a tourist site. The damaging floods of winter seemed to fulfill an oracular poem displayed on the tower’s face:

I, the poet William Yeats,
With old mill boards and sea-green slates,
And smithy work from the Gort forge,
Restored this tower for my wife George;
And may these characters remain
When all is ruin once again.

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Thoor open daily until September!

Welcome to Thoor Ballylee, the Hiberno-Norman tower described by Seamus Heaney as the most important building in Ireland.

Thanks to our volunteers and donors and sponsors and friends, Thoor Ballylee is still open daily all this summer until September.

Watch our video of Thoor Ballylee opening for Yeats’s one hundred and fiftieth birthday on 13th June 2015.

(Or view here on youtube).

Thoor Ballylee is a fine and well-preserved fourteenth-century tower but its major significance is due to its close association with his fellow Nobel laureate for Literature, the poet W.B.Yeats. It was here the poet spent summers with his family and was inspired to write some of his finest poetry, making the tower his permanent symbol. Due to serious flood damage in the winter of 2009/10 the tower was closed for some years. A local group the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society has come together and are actively seeking funds to ensure its permanent restoration and reopening as a cultural centre. Because of an ongoing fundraising effort and extensive repair and restoration work, the tower and associated cottages can be viewed year round, and thanks to our volunteers are open for the summer months.

Below is Robert Gregory’s vision of the tower and environs, sketched before his death fighting in Italy in the Great War. Once the tower is fully restored it is hoped that once again it will become a cultural and educational centre for reverie and reflection for visitors from around the world. Come and see for yourself, or to find out how you can help click here.

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Robert Gregory, c.1917

 

Share in Yeats’s enchanting Thoor dream

Thoor Ballylee Re-opening speech on the occasion of Yeats2015 and Yeats’s 150th birthday celebrations

by Senator Fidelma Healy Eames

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A dhaoine uaisle, Cathaoirleach an Chontae, a Aire, a Theachta Dala, Seanadoiri, Comhairleoiri, cuirim failte roimh go leir go dti an ocaid speisialta seo, an ait an-speisialta seo.

And I will find some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,

Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings

These famous lines help us to understand the importance of place in Yeats’ life and poetry. Places of beauty form the source and substance of poetry, they evoke the flitting essence of life so hard to grasp. Places are where the magic of life is sensed and felt, the magic which our poet sought to catch, like butterflies, in his net of words.

Thoor Ballylee is undoubtedly such a place. It smells of poetry: the trees, the whispering weir, the fairy-tale tower, the rustic cottage…the whole atmosphere of tower, stream, and area.

One could imagine the poet dreaming Eithne imprisoned in the tower’s dusty loft, or himself looking from the window to the stream and out across the deep fields and blossoming hedgerows, himself ruminating words as the lazy cows chew the cud.

I can see him rising bleary-eyed from his cluttered desk ‘because a fire was in my head’, and emerging from the foot of his tower where he might have

       cut and peeled a hazel wand

And hooked a berry to a thread;

And when white moths were on the wing,

And moth like stars were flickering out,

I dropped a berry in a stream

And caught a little silver trout.

For well over ten years the poet came here again and again to breathe in the inspiration of the evening air, of the clear morning, of the lazy afternoon in the company of his wife George, close to his great friend Lady Gregory.

W.B.Yeats was Ireland’s first Nobel prize winner. This is where he lived. It was here by the shady depths passing by his dream tower that he sought and caught his salmon of knowledge, the mythical fish of inspiration, at whose taste Fionn’s eyes were made bright.

We must therefore celebrate this place, Thoor Ballylee, if we really desire to get closer to the magic, the musicality, running through Yeats’ poetry.

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Ladies, gentlemen and children, Thank you for joining with us in celebration today. It was in this spot that Yeats’ dreams were conceived, here that he sought to make them poetry.

This place, however, is not only important for poetry. It was central to forming Yeats’ identity. And it is so often that we look to poetry itself, especially that of an Irish poet, to catch a glimpse and form an idea of our own identity. In more recent times we have done this with Kavanagh and Heaney. Yeats was perhaps the first to unify us in this way.

Yeats’ true identity, and ours too, was not political, although he was a Senator, but rooted in places like this: in the charm of rural quiet, and rustic beauty. These things are real, and stay with us, regardless of all the conclusions and beliefs drawn by rational minds. Rest a while, take it in and savour it today.

This is not to say that Yeats was not a political poet. In a Seanad debate in 1924 when Yeats contemplated a united Ireland he said it would be won in the end not because we fight for it but ‘because we govern this country well ‘by creating a system of culture which will represent the whole of the country and which will draw the imagination of the young towards it’. Wise words we must agree.

And Yeats has a lot to teach us in this regard. I read from his famous poem, ‘The Tower’, drawing its name from this very spot:

I choose upstanding men

That climb the streams until

The fountain leap, and at dawn

Drop their cast at the side

Of dripping stone; I declare

They shall inherit my pride,

The pride of people that were

Bound neither to Cause nor to State,

Neither to slaves that were spat on,

Nor to the tyrants that spat,

The people of Burke and of Grattan

That gave, though free to refuse—

Pride, like that of the morn,

When the headlong light is loose…

It is therefore a great pleasure, no, a great honour rather, to celebrate the regeneration of this magical place, for me to commend our outstanding local community, our donors local and afar, some you will hear more from later, but most especially our committee of dreamers, who have toiled against all the odds to declare Thoor re-open today, for our culture, for our identity, for our sense of selves.

But I being poor have only my dreams

I have spread my dreams under your feet,

Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

With Thoor Ballylee, Yeats spreads his dreams under our feet.

We must be careful with them. Together then let us claim this tower. Help us on our journey to restore it. because ‘we have miles to go, miles to go before we sleep’ to realise our vision, to turn it into a home for all to enjoy, to re-claim our past and re-imagine our futures as Yeats did in 1916. To make it a place that will exhibit and tell not just Yeats story but our story. We need your help – volunteer, come along to our events, become a friend of Thoor. All information is available on yeatsthoorballylee.org

Minister Deenihan, I thank you for being with us today and for the unexpected honour you bestowed on me in asking me to chair this committee, Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society. I have a favour to ask you too –  that you would take it upon yourself to convince the Government to lift up its head, look out and realise the treasure that Thoor is.

Today we are opening our doors to you and inviting you in.

Come with us. Thoor is the kind of monument that speaks so much more to us than any official column or statue. Let us mind it. It is living poetry, it quivers with life!

Happy birthday Willie! Breithla shona dhuit, a Sheamais!

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Fidelma Healy-Eames

Come to Thoor for Yeats’s birthday!

Invitation to Thoor Ballylee

16.00-18.00 Saturday 13 June 2015

Thoor Ballylee, Gort, Co. Galway

The Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society invites you to the re-opening of Thoor Ballylee on the occasion of W.B. Yeats 150th birthday. Come celebrate Yeats2015 at the poet’s home! ThoorBallyLeeRiver

This Saturday 13th of June to coincide with W.B. Yeats’s 150th birthday, the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society is thrilled to announce the re-opening of the Tower for the first time in seven years. Minister Jimmy Deenihan, Joseph Hassett, Yeats Scholar & Thoor Benefactor and Senator Fidelma Healy Eames, chair of the Society, will open the event at 4 pm.

Niall De Burca, Internationally acclaimed story teller will perform at the event, which is followed by a community barbeque.

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Ireland’s Nobel Laureate for Literature, William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) spent his summers in Thoor Ballylee, where he was inspired to write some of his finest poetry. Yeats once said in a letter to Olivia Shakespeare that “We are in our Tower and I am writing poetry as I always do here, and, as always happens, no matter how I begin, it becomes love poetry before I am finished with it.” In 1928 he published a monumental volume of poetry, The Tower and in 1933, The Winding Stair and Other Poems. Both collections were inspired by the life, landscape, and architecture of the place, and feature many poems set and composed at Thoor Ballylee.

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Senator Healy Eames, Chairperson of the Thoor Ballylee Society explains “Thoor Ballylee is re-opening on Saturday 13th of June and will be open throughout the summer. We are planning to develop the Tower into a legacy project of the Yeats 150th Celebrations which will draw tourists and Yeats scholars from near and far to savour this stunning setting and the depth of the Irish literary legacy. This has been a labour of love and strength of conviction about the need to preserve our past for future generations. With Thoor we are reclaiming our past. As Chair of the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society, I would be delighted if you would help us on our journey’”

The Society is calling on the local community, media and other interested parties to support the project so ambitious plans to turn the tower into a world class cultural centre, which will accommodate a new exhibition, a cafe, bookshop, and space for exhibitions, lectures and classes. The Society calls on the public to check the website to find out more about the project, read updates on progress, learn about the tower and its history, join in discussions, make donations, and discover exciting sponsorship opportunities.

We are delighted to say that thereafter for the summer, the tower will be open all week, from 11am to 6pm Monday – Sunday.

This area of South Galway has many cultural connections to Yeats and to Lady Gregory. Other celebrations that are taking place in the vicinity include:

  • Kiltartan Gregory Cultural Society Picnic Enjoy a recital by Coole Music Ensemble, poetry reading by local school children, face painting for the younger generation and a Trad session with Gaillimh Theas Comhaltas. Come in period costume. Time. 12.30 to 2.30 pm.
  • Coole Harmonies in the Cobbled Yard Fancy dress procession to the site of Coole House, Uilleann Piper Eugene Lamb & Poetry readings. Time: 3pm to 5pmCome and join us!

Come and join us!

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Yeats auction today at Thoor!

Today, Sunday May 31st 2015, the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society holds a unique fundraising auction. This development fundraising evening takes place at Thoor Ballylee Gort, Co. Galway in the former home of the world-famous poet William Butler Yeats. With shades of the Beatles on the roof at Savile Row or U2 from Dublin’s Clarence Hotel, the auction comes from the rooftop of the tower. Local Auctioneer, Colm Farrell (MIPAV) acts as William Butler Yeats.

Funds raised will be used to re-open the tower to the public thirteen days later on the poet’s birthday (13 June) and to set in stone long-term plans for a permanent Yeats exhibition, a cafe, bookshop, and space for exhibitions, lectures and classes at this most remarkable building, ‘the most important public building in Ireland’ according to the late Seamus Heaney.

The fantastic Yeats-themed items and gifts available, including rare books and hotel mini break offers, are featured here. We are hugely grateful to our donors and sponsors.

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At the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society auction on Sunday 31st May 2015 one of the items available is a fine set of the Complete Works of J.M.Synge (Dublin: Maunsel & Co. 1910, first edition), edited by W.B.Yeats. Yeats edited the volumes after Synge’s death, deeply affected by the example of his life and his work. Meeting Synge as a young man in Paris Yeats had urged him to go to the Aran Islands to give expression to the life there. They became friends and collaborators at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin; Yeats was astonished at Synge’s genius without ever quite feeling he fully knew the man himself. After his death he wrote in ‘J.M.Synge and the Ireland of his time’ that ‘the strength that made him delight in setting the hard virtues by the soft, the bitter by the sweet, salt by mercury, the stone by the elixir, gave him a hunger for harsh facts, for ugly surprising things, for all that defies our hope.’ The volumes include this frontispiece portrait by Yeats’s father John Butler Yeats of J.M.Synge during rehearsals in 1907 for Synge’s vibrant and controversial drama The Playboy of the Western WorldYeats’s curtain speech after the orchestrated ‘riots’ that interrupted the production was a major statement in favour of artistic freedom in Ireland.

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Yeats auction lots

The extraordinary Yeats auction approaches this weekend, on Sunday May 31st 2015. Come along and bid for Yeats and other rare books, artwork, memorabilia, and special offers and items from our sponsors. Featured below is a provisional list of available lots. All support for the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society is vital for the opening and sustaining of Yeats’s tower. thoorballylee-sketch

Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society – Auction list Sunday May 31st 2015

Lot 1 4 Lots. Hard Back Books “W.B .Yeats and The Muses’’ by Joseph M. Hassett
Lot 2 Dinner for 2 at Gregans Castle Hotel, Ballyvaughan. Cooked by Gerard Warren Chef, Mr. David Hurley, Simon Hader
Lot 3 A hand knitted jumper Contact Mary Bermingham to decide style, colour etc. )From Burren Nature
Lot 4 1 Bio Energy Healing Session By Sara Jane Kingston
Lot 5 2 nights for 4 people in a self catering 2 bedroom apartment in Galway City Center. Currently available for Bank Holiday Weekend and the 2016 Races.   Rest of 2015 due to availability (see booking.com)
Lot 6 Bojangles. wash, cut and blow dry.Bojangles are the Sponsoring Hairdresser for Current ’W.B. ’
Lot 7 Ewe Lamb from ’Shanbhaile Beostoic’
Lot 8 1 single bed
Lot 9 Candlelit dinner for 4 on the rooftop of Thoor Ballylee Tower.
Lot 10 4 Volumes of the complete works of JM Synge. First Edition, ed. W.B.Yeats. Printed by Maunsel & Co. Dublin. 1910
Lot 11 Handmade Pearl Necklace and Earring set from True Colours
Lot 12 Handcrafted Heirloom Quality Designed Rosary Beads with Leather case
Lot 13 Set of Pearl Earrings from True Colours
Lot 14 Framed print ‘Bridge over waterfall’
Lot 15 Framed print ‘Playtime by the Fire’
Lot 16 Framed print ‘Evening Harbour View’
Lot 17 Tickets for 5 opening nights at the Abbey Theatre
Lot 18 3 pretty floral prints
Lot 19 3 nights Self Catering Apartment for Couple in Letterkenny, Co. Donegal –
Lot 20 Candle Lit Dinner for 2 at the new ‘’Sasta’’ Restaurant in Gort
Lot 21 Tour of Leinster House and lunch for 4.
Lot 22 Half set of Willow pattern tea set
Lot 23 History of Kiltartan Book
Lot 24 First Edition of Lady Gregory’s Collected Plays with Dust Cover
Lot 25 Limited Edition, linocut portrait of Oscar Wilde By S. Browne
Lot 26 ½ set of a 1920s hand painted bone china tea set
Lot 27 Victorian Copper lusterware dresser jug with sprigged floral decoration and mask spout
Lot 28 Victorian copper lustre jug
Lot 29 2 nights stay including one evening meal for 2 people at Mount Vernon, Flaggy Shore, Co. Clare.
Lot 30 Boxed set of Oriental Dessert Knives and Forks
Lot 31 Serving cake and butter Knife with floral motif handles
Lots 32 Reserve to be decided    Rare Books

A.E. (George Russell) Vale and Other Poems – A.E. 1931. First Edition. MACMILLAN & CO    Voices of the Stones – A.E. 1925. First Edition. MACMILLAN & CO    The Interpreters – A.E. 1922. First Edition. MACMILLAN & CO    Song and its Fountains – A.E. 1932 First Edition. MACMILLAN & CO    Imagination and Reveries – A.E. 1925 Second Edition. MACMILLAN & CO.

James Stephens Kings and the Moon (Poems) 1938 First Edition. MACMILLAN & CO    The Demi-Gods 1922 Second Edition. MACMILLAN & CO  

Sean O’Casey  Purple Dust – A Warward Comedy in Three Acts. 1st Edition 1940. London. MACMILLAN & CO     Oak Leaves and Lavender – a Warld on Wallpapers.1946. MACMILLAN & CO    Two Plays: Juno and the Paycock and the Shadow of a Gunman. 1925. MACMILLAN & CO.    Within the Gates: Play of Four Scenes in a London Park. 1933 MACMILLAN & CO.

Lot 33 First Edition Lady Gregory’s Journal (Reserve tbd)
Lot 34 High Quality Canvas Wrap Photograph ‘’Snow Capped Thor Ballylee’’ (50cm wide x 40cm high)
Lot 35 4 lots Illustration – The Stares Nest By My Window – WB Yeats By Brian Gallagher 2015
Lot 36 Yeats Clock an original piece made from slate
Lot 37 6 Pieces of Michael Kennedy Studio Art Pottery
Lot 38 2 nights stay with the Flynn Hotel Group (Old Ground, Ennis: Newpark, Kilkenny; Park, Dungarvan and Imperial, Cork)
Lot 39 Print of WB Yeats from Literary Greats Exhibition, Mark Mc Fadden
Lot 40 A lamb
Lot 41 A course of ten Yoga classes.

Inish Festival: Island Conversations

Inish Festival 2015: Island Conversations launches today on Inishbofin and continues throughout the weekend. The event, which celebrates poetry, drama, music, and images, features the poet Bernard O’Donoghue, a noted scholar of Yeats, and a number of fine artists and thinkers considering the place of islands.

Opening with a unprecedented flotilla of boats, the festival is a celebration of islands, island communities, and the arts, and brings together artists, writers, musicians, scholars, performers – and most importantly the islanders themselves – in a series of conversations, performances, and creative events. In times of extraordinary change, communities and the arts, especially in Galway and the west of Ireland, face real challenges. Inish Festival provides a focus for creative exchanges and a platform for vital discussions regarding the vibrancy and regeneration of the arts and of these communities. An island shows us the world from a different vantage point; by starting here Inish Festival tells us about ourselves.

galway-hooker

It is over sixty years since the poet Richard Murphy went ‘Sailing to an Island’, renovating a Galway hooker and taking writers and artists such as Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney, over sea to Inishbofin. Inish Festival represents a symbolic homecoming, as his family return and he links with us at the conference from his home in another troubled island, Sri Lanka. Other islanders and musicians join local and international speakers to talk about land clearances, emigration, archaeology, folklore; discussions about artistic representations of island culture encounter conversations about sustainability. In particular Inish Festival showcases creative responses in paint, light, words, and sound to islands and isolation. Inish Festival reminds us we are all islanders, but none of us is an island, entire of itself.

Yeats invites you to Thoor auction

On Sunday May 31st 2015 the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society will hold a development fundraising evening at Thoor Ballylee Gort, Co. Galway in the former home of the world-famous poet William Butler Yeats. With shades of the Beatles on the roof at Savile Row or U2 from Dublin’s Clarence Hotel, the auction will take place from the rooftop of the tower. Local Auctioneer, Colm Farrell (MIPAV) acts as William Butler Yeats.

Funds raised will be used to re-open the tower to the public thirteen days later on the poet’s birthday (13 June) and to set in stone long-term plans for a permanent Yeats exhibition, a cafe, bookshop, and space for exhibitions, lectures and classes at this most remarkable building, ‘the most important public building in Ireland’ according to the late Seamus Heaney.

The fantastic Yeats-themed items and gifts available, including rare books and hotel mini break offers, will be featured on this website in the lead up to this event. So too will all our wonderful donors and sponsors.

 

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At the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society auction on Sunday 31st May 2015 one of the items available is a fine set of the Complete Works of J.M.Synge (Dublin: Maunsel & Co. 1910, first edition), edited by W.B.Yeats. Yeats edited the volumes after Synge’s death, deeply affected by the example of his life and his work. Meeting Synge as a young man in Paris Yeats had urged him to go to the Aran Islands to give expression to the life there. They became friends and collaborators at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin; Yeats was astonished at Synge’s genius without ever quite feeling he fully knew the man himself. After his death he wrote in ‘J.M.Synge and the Ireland of his time’ that ‘the strength that made him delight in setting the hard virtues by the soft, the bitter by the sweet, salt by mercury, the stone by the elixir, gave him a hunger for harsh facts, for ugly surprising things, for all that defies our hope.’ The volumes include this frontispiece portrait by Yeats’s father John Butler Yeats of J.M.Synge during rehearsals in 1907 for Synge’s vibrant and controversial drama The Playboy of the Western WorldYeats’s curtain speech after the orchestrated ‘riots’ that interrupted the production was a major statement in favour of artistic freedom in Ireland.

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Which is your favourite W.B.Yeats poem?

Would you rather arise and go now, slouch towards Bethlehem, or seek to tell the dancer from the dance? Is it the terrible beauty of Easter, 1916, the foul rag-and-bone shop of the heart in The Circus Animals’ Desertion or the world more full of weeping from The Stolen Child that is closest to your heart?

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of WB Yeats, one of the 20th century’s greatest poets, with worldwide celebrations. Nationalist, romantic, spiritualist; beacon of the Celtic Twilight, chronicler of everyday life and angry old man; Yeats went through many phases, and left many exemplary poems. In a 1999 poll to find Ireland’s 100 favourite poems of all time, he takes seven places in the top 10 (Heaney and Kavanagh hardly get a look-in), and dominates the list as a whole.

But which of his poems is your favourite? The Guardian is running an open thread. Let them know your choice!

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