Sunday 25 March 2018

'Magic' of Yeats celebrated at summer school

The 58th annual Yeats Summer School brought students from across the globe to Sligo

Jessica Farry

"The landscape of Yeats' Sligo has changed, changed utterly," President of the Yeats Society, Martin Enright, told the crowd at the launch of the Yeats International Summer School at the Hawk's Well Theatre last Thursday.

But this was not a negative reference. In fact, Mr. Enright was referring to the way Sligo now celebrates the life of the extraordinary Yeats family.

"The Tread Softly Festival, the Yeats Winter School, the Lily & Lolly Craft Fest, the Poetry Circle, the Blue Raincoat programme and the continuation of the Yeats Day have brought the knowledge and appreciation for Yeats' work to a much wider audience. WB has really become a public man around these parts," he said.

The Yeats International Summer School attracts students from across the world on an annual basis.

Some even return for the series of talks and lectures, having enjoyed it so much on their first visit.

The lecturers, speakers and guests are of an extremely high calibre, and that is just one of the reasons that the summer school continues to retain its popularity and its prestige.

"We have students here today from the United States, Canada, Germany, India, Ireland, New Zealand, Romania, South Korea, Spain, Tunisia, United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Australia, Italy, Estonia and China.

"It's a truly international gathering. Many of you students will be coming for the first time, a few of you are season attendees. Our former Director Geraldine Higgins deserves the greatest thanks. We're fortunate that Professor Nicky Grene has stepped forward as replacement," continued Mr. Enright.

Yeats continues to be celebrated in Sligo in more ways than ever before. A new mural has just been erected, while there are further plans.

"Our Directors have assembled a stellar cast of scholars, historians, literary critics, poets and writers who together will deliver a programme which will reflect and help us reflect on Yeats.

"Congrats to Sligo Tidy Towns and the latest wall mural. Our new exhibition, Yeats' Western World, scripted by Dr. Adrian Patterson of NUIG has been fully prepared and as we speak, it will hopefully be installed by the end of the school," added Mr. Enright.

When former Director Geraldine Higgins, who has contributed a huge amount to the event over the years, stepped down, Nicholas Greene was more than willing to step in.

Due to a bereavement, Collette Bryce was unable to make it, but renowned writer Paula Meehan stepped in, and Professor Grene said she is a credit to Trinity College.

"I was thrilled when I heard that Paula Meehan was going to be the speaker at the opening of the school. We all have additional reason to be grateful to Paula, just a week ago I got an email from Collette Bryce saying she could no longer come for personal reasons, and Paula with characteristic generosity said that she was willing to stay on to read on Friday night and to take the workshop over the weekend.

"Everyone involved in the Yeats Society want to thank her for doing that.

"We in Trinity are very proud of Paula."

As Ireland Professor of Poetry, Professor Grene says Paula worked extremely hard.

"I got to know Paula better over the last three years when she was Ireland Professor of Poetry. The idea of the professorship of poetry is not only to honour one of our very distinguished poets but also as it were to promote poetry in Ireland, both sides of the border. It's been very successful in that regard.

"Paula did a quite phenomenal job."

Honoured to be on the receiving end of such plaudits, Paula Meehan, poet and playwright, enchanted the crowd with the talk she delivered at the launch of the evening.

"152 years after his birth we are brought together to celebrate and reflect upon WB Yeats," she began.

"That Yeats' work has had a half life of over one hundred years and that there is no sign of his poetic radiation being spent is in itself a kind of magic - a result of how well crafted his poems are.

"At the heart of that imagination is magic. His poetry was, and continues to be, an energising instrument in activism.

"The recent defeat of fracking is based on sound scientific information about its potential to lay land waste, and potential to harm human and other communities," she continued.

The legacy of the Yeats family continues live on in Sligo and surrounding areas.

The summer school is just one of the many ways that Yeats, his brother Jack, and sisters Lily and Lolly are celebrated and remembered in Sligo each year.

And serving as an inspiration to many, that legacy continues to grow, and will continue to inspire people for decades more for certain.

Sligo Champion