Happy Birthday WB Yeats*

William Butler Yeats (13th June 1865 – 28 January 1939) would have been 146 years old if he were alive today, which would have been a truly remarkable feat even for one of the giants of Irish literature! There are four Irishmen that have been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature; WB Yeats (1923), George Bernard Shaw (1925), Samuel Beckett (1969) and Seamus Heaney (1995). For a nation of our size I think it’s an impressive number. I’d love to see a woman be the fifth.

The National Library of Ireland is currently exhibiting “Summer’s Wreath”, which is a celebration of William Butler Yeats’ work. I went to see it last week with a friend, but we took far too long over lunch beforehand and so only got about fifteen minutes in before we were told that the Library was closing. It’s an in-depth and fascinating exhibition that demands more time so I think I will revisit it before it closes at the end of June.

The exhibition contains copies of Yeats’ writing, his letters, his spectacles and ring, and even a lock of his hair. There are also films being shown within the exhibition on subjects such as “The Mask: Yeats the public man” and “Players and Painted Stage: Yeats and theatre”. In addition to the exhibition there are readings and lectures happening in the Library throughout the month of June on the subject of Yeats with people including Frank Delaney, Andrea Corr, Liam O’Flynn and Sir Andrew Motion.

*What a great week for Irish literature – WB Yeats’ birthday and Bloomsday within three days of each other.

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