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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Yeats2015 worldwide celebrations continue

From a new Irish stamp to a public reading by Fiona Shaw, global events in honour of ‘a great public and private poet’ continue. Poet Bernard O’Donoghue noted that Yeats was “a great public and private poet, and is almost unique in that way. There’s that great thing that TS Eliot said about him, that he was somebody without whom the history of his own time could not be understood.” Play your part in history by joining the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society! See the latest news stories from the Guardian.


In Ireland, there will be a new stamp honouring the poet’s 150th birthday, as well as a limited-edition €15 coin, while the team at Yeats 2015 are asking people to record their own version of a Yeats poem in an attempt to create the world’s largest audio archive of his work. President Michael Higgins has contributed a reading of A Prayer for My Daughter, the family of Seamus Heaney have given permission for his recording of What Then? to be used, and the former president of Ireland Mary Robinson is reading The Song of Wandering Aengus.

Fiona Shaw, reads the Nobel laureate’s poetry at the Poet in the City event in London on 29 April, said: “Yeats made sense of the world between imagination, childhood and history. The poems became my learning ground of a language that had nothing to do with school or adulthood – a private, fierce, beautiful language of rhymes and half-rhymes, the romance, failure, fear and celebration. He was a great poet.”

Yeats rooftop auction

On 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 by local Auctioneer, Colm Farrell (MIPAV), acting 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.

The Galway Advertiser feature on this unique event is linked here. 

To give to this fundraising effort go to our donate page or contact us at yeatsthoorballylee@gmail.com.

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Development project on UTV

The Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society development project is the subject of a feature news item on UTV.


The video (see link) describes the local and international significance of the tower and features Colm Farrell and Sister De Lourdes Fahy, who recount family memories of the poet:

‘For many people, W.B. Yeats is commonly associated with Co Sligo but it was in fact in Co Galway that the famous poet spent thirty summers and penned some of his most memorable work.

Speaking to UTV Ireland, Sister De Lourdes Fahy of the Thoor Ballylee Society said: “My people owned quite a bit of land around the castle and they used to supply the Yeats family with milk.

“Very often my father brought Yeats down in the pony-and-trap from Thoor Ballylee down to Coole Park. He did not talk, he didn’t have much in common with young farmers. He loved writing about peasants and fishermen but in actual fact he found it difficult to relate to them.

“I suppose he was composing poetry all the time,” she added.

The locals are now facing a much more ambitious plan – to raise one million euro by June, the 150th anniversary of his birth.

“It’s our goal to restore the tower, re-open it and develop it into a world-class cultural centre to honour his memory, his heritage, his poetry, his links with this area – and his links with lots of other literary figures, around the Literary Revival, around 1916,” said chair of the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society, Senator Fidelma Healy-Eames.’

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.

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Thoor Ballylee

Welcome to Thoor Ballylee, the Hiberno-Norman tower described by Seamus Heaney as the most important building in Ireland. It is a fine and well-preserved fourteenth-century tower but its 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. The tower and associated cottages can still be viewed but are currently closed following flood damage and extensive repair work. A local group the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society has come together and are actively seeking funds to ensure its permanent restoration and opening. Below is Robert Gregory’s vision of the tower and environs, sketched before his death fighting in Italy in 1918. Once the tower is fully restored it is hoped that once again it will become a cultural centre for reverie and reflection for visitors from around the world.


Robert Gregory, Ballylee Castle, c.1916