3 Replies to “Tuesday, 4 August: Yeats International Summer School Lectures and Seminar”

  1. The town of Sligo is more fanatical about Yeats than I ever could have possibly imagined. Never mind all the statues of Yeats, the gallery of Yeats’s brother’s paintings, the archive devoted to Yeats, the Yeats Society, the Yeats student village, the Yeats quotes painted in and outside of buildings, the Yeats café named after Yeats’s sisters—never mind all of that—what really got me is that there is a beer named after Yeats. I am trying to imagine living here, with all of this poetry and beautiful scenery that bred the legend himself, and then living under the shadow of the works of one single man. I mentioned in a previous post that Daniel O’Connell was glorified in Glasnevin Cemetery in a way that reminded me of how some people practice religion, and again now in Sligo I am seeing a recurring theme. So far we have been to a few poetry readings and heard mention some artistic talent within the summer school, but the overwhelming majority of what we have seen so far is discourse on the life of Yeats. I can imagine being an aspiring poet or artist here must be discouraging if all anyone ever hears about in Sligo is how great the Yeats family was and that no one after them could ever compare. For this reason, I am really growing to appreciate the few poetry readings and open mics that we do get to experience. Actually getting to see people read or perform their own work is encouraging to me as an artist, and the work feels more tangible when the author or performer is standing right before me.

  2. Today’s poetry reading by Bernard O’Donoghue was both beautiful and entertaining. The poem he read, I believe titled “History,” connecting Abraham Lincoln’s funeral to contemporary readers, was really reflective of an Irish sentiment that I’ve seen in various other literature that we’ve read throughout the course. In particular, it reminded me of Yeats’ poem “Easter 1916.” Like O’Donoghue, Yeats emphasizes that while at first glance a death may seem like the end of something, a more abstract link may exist far into the future for some individuals. “History” also seemed to me to be a bit of a satire in line with the class conversation we had in Glasnevin Cemetery about how holding on to memories of the dead may allow for messages to become convoluted or biased. O’Donoghue’s comic poem seems very aware of this Irish sentiment and how trivial such connections may actually be.

  3. One day after the seminars, me and my classmates came down the stairs to be greeted by an author who was having a small reception for the release of her new book, a work that was a combination of both her writing and Yeats’ The Secret Rose. Before she did her reading, her editor preluded her with a small introduction about how she came to edit the author’s book. The editor was a friendly woman from Texas who stated that she enjoyed Yeats’ poetry prior to coming to Ireland, but upon reading the book that she edited, she really felt the “spirit” of Ireland within those pages. I went home and looked up the book, as it had appealing content and a gorgeous cover, and I found an article written by the editor that echoed the same sentiment she had in her introduction: “On a bus somewhere between Shannon and Knock, listening to the lively conversations of young and old people around me, I suddenly realized that the voice heard throughout this novel is the voice of Ireland. It’s verdant and proud, with a unique melody, hard-won wisdom and wry humor.” While her introduction was ver well-received, I couldn’t help but view the idea of a country’s “voice” as one that has been consistently rehashed time and time again through both Irish history as well as American history, and perhaps even world history. Irish history in particular begged for a common “essence,” for the purpose of strengthening the nation and unifying its culture. In America, we see this embodied in the concepts of “freedom” and “liberty,” something that supposedly all Americans are supposed to stand for. I guess I’m hypersensitive to this phenomenon now that we’ve spoke so much about it in class, but it’s something I wasn’t aware of prior to this year, and it helps me look at these kinds of things in a much more critical way.

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