Yeats 150

The world commemorates one of Ireland's most esteemed literary figures a century and a half after his birth

If you’re a Yeats fan, then you’ll know all about Yeats Day on June 13, which this year, marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Ireland’s much-loved Nobel Prize-winning poet. On the other hand, if your knowledge is somewhat lacking on the Yeats front, then there’s a lot going on from June 11-14 to enlighten you…

Officially, Yeats Day is June 13, but a whole host of activities to celebrate and remember the writer are taking place throughout Ireland and further afield over Yeats Day Weekend. The weekend is itself, part of the year-long Yeats2015 commemoration of the poet. And, with poetry, art, music, festivals, food and wine involved, it’s all set to be a packed and fun-filled few days. 

In New York, actors Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick are hosting a special Yeats gala benefit, while Gabriel Byrne joins the conversation at the Dalkey Book Festival. Yeats’ fans are also being encouraged to share their favourite Yeats poem by recording it online as part of the ‘Your Yeats’ initiative.

Meanwhile, in Northern Ireland, our inaugural poet laureate of 2014, Sinead Morrissey, travels to Sligo to take part in the Poet Laureate and National Poets Event on June 13. She is joined by the Chair of Irish Poetry, Paula Meehan; Poet Laureate of England, Carol Ann Duffy; the National Poet of Wales, Gillian Clarke; the National Poet of Scotland, Liz Lochhead, and the London Laureate, Aisling Fahey. 

The Linen Hall Library in Belfast has also joined in the celebrations, organising a recital, anecdotal and musical evening in honour of Yeats. Most of the events are, however, centred around Sligo, Galway and Dublin, although there are various others taking place around the world on Yeats Day. 

As one of Ireland’s most esteemed literary figures, William Butler Yeats has long influenced writers and artists and indeed, Yeats2015 aims to celebrate and encourage creativity in Ireland and beyond. It is ‘a celebration of the man, the legacy and the inspiration’, with Sligo playing a pivotal role in the celebrations, as Yeats’ ‘spiritual home’.

WB Yeats

Born in Dublin in 1865, Yeats lived between Dublin, London and Sligo while he was growing up, although he later travelled more extensively throughout France, Spain, Italy, and America. He came from an extremely creative family and Yeats2015 subsequently includes events to celebrate the creative legacy of his father and siblings.

Considered by many as the finest poet of the twentieth century, WB Yeats initially wrote of Irish myths and folklore, and was influenced a great deal by eastern art and philosophy. He was, however, ultimately a modern poet and was a revolutionary voice in Irish literature whose writing has resonated down through the years.

Yeats wrote evocatively of the times he lived in and was the first Irishman to be awarded the Nobel Prize, in 1923. He subsequently wrote the influential poetry volume, The Tower in 1928 as Nobel Laureate, followed by The Winding Stair and Other Poems a year later – two notable works, amongst many others.

An inspiration for many poets and writers – both during and after his lifetime – Yeats’ ability to weave words using architectural and natural influences created many popular and long-lasting works. Always staying true to his Irish roots, the poet also served as an Irish senator for two terms and his life and works continue to hold people’s attention to this day.

His legacy, it is clear, will very much live on.