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Yeats 2015: Ireland To Celebrate Poet’s 150th Anniversary

BY JERRY ALONZO LEON

WB Yeats on the SS Europa, 1932

To commemorate the 150th anniversary of W.B. Yeats’s birth, the Irish government launched the Yeats 2015 initiative, a year-long celebration of the poet’s life and work. More than €500,000 ($635,000) has been allocated by the Irish government to celebrate the Nobel Laureate’s esteemed career.

Western Development Commission (WDC), tasked with the promotion of economic and social development for the Western Region of Ireland, invited artists and organizations to apply for a portion of the fund and submit creative project proposals to help “celebrate the life and work of one of Ireland’s foremost literary figures”.

Born on June 13th 1865 in Dublin, Ireland, William Butler Yeats is one of the country’s most renowned poets. A self-proclaimed member of the “last Romantics”, Yeats’s poetic voice ranged from the inherited conventions of literary traditionalism to the burgeoning cries of Irish cultural nationalism.

Prior to the founding of the Abbey Theatre in 1904, Yeats would found Irish literary societies in Dublin and London, as well as help organize the Irish dramatic movement in 1899. His poetry would help inspire his countrymen during the Easter Rising of 1916, though the rebellion was eventually crushed by the British.

2 W.B. Yeats grave

Yeats’s poetry continues to hold remarkable relevance in today’s society, with many of his most well-known lines quoted in film (Million Dollar Baby), television (The Sopranos), literature (Chinua Achebe’s 1958 novel Things Fall Apart), and music (An Appointment with Mr Yeats, an album based upon his poems by the Scottish rock band The Waterboys).

Yeats’s poems, such as the following lines from “The Second Coming”, continue to resonate today:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; 

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, 

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere 

The ceremony of innocence is drowned; 

The best lack all conviction, while the worst 

Are full of passionate intensity.

He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1923 for his “always inspired poetry, which, in a highly artistic form, gives expression to the spirit of a whole nation”.

Yeats 2015 will focus on a range of artistic and cultural events, which WDC expects will draw an additional 85,000 visitors to Ireland. “Yeats 2015 will form part of the national decade of commemoration and will draw visitors from international locations as diverse as Japan, America and the UK,” said Ian Brannigan, Acting CEO and Head of Regional Development for WDC.

Flickr Chris Drumm W.B. Yeats

Organizers believe the ambitious nature of the initiative will be a special boon to Ireland, helping to “make a bold statement to the world about our rich cultural heritage and showcase our contemporary cultural wealth”.

The expectation for organizers is that “institutions and organisations from around Ireland and the world will partner with Yeats 2015 and offer a diverse and rewarding series of events to acknowledge and celebrate the range and depth of his work and that of his family. Yeats 2015 partners will span the literary, cultural, creative, historical and academic world.”

Special events for the sesquicentennial anniversary are scheduled to launch in Ireland this year, including key events in Dublin, Galway and Sligo. “Sligo is the spiritual home of WB Yeats and the natural place to launch Yeats2015,” said Jimmy Deenihan, former Minister for Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht and whose department launched the Yeats 2015 initiative. “Yeats was an international figure and it is fitting Yeats2015 will have an international theme to its proceedings.” Scheduled international events are expected to take place in several cities including London, Paris, Tokyo and New York.

If you would like more information about Yeats 2015, please visit the official website here.

Photos: theguardian.com, wikimedia.org, Flickr/Chris Drumm

Jerry Leon contributor profile

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