Thursday, June 14, 2012

Yeats Day in Sligo

I spent most of yesterday in Sligo for Yeats Day. It's what retirement is all about. I missed the morning boat trip on Lough Gill but joined in the Yeats Society Happy Birthday event at the Yeats Memorial Building, Hyde Bridge.

Stella Mew, chief executive of the wonderful Yeats Society, led this, sharing her vast knowledge of all things Yeatsian and reading some of the poems. Others read their favourite poems and some of their own word and we had a group rendition of The Lake Isle of Innisfree and The Stolen Child. I read what is probably Yeats' last poem, Politics,as a balance. There were visitors there from Belgium, France and the UK.

I visited the exhibition in the old Pollexfen Building, Wine Street, once the home Yeats’s maternal grandfather, to see the display of some of the poet’s papers, courtesy of the National Library. We have been spoiled by that great NLI Yeats exhibition in Kildare St. and displays like this seem tiny in comparison.

Then on to The Hamilton Gallery on John Street where the Japanese Ambassador was opening a specially commissioned exhibition by artist Yoko Akino, reflecting Yeats’ love and understanding of Japanese Noh theatre. Her Cat and the Moon above. These were great. If I wasn't retired and could afford . . .

I had only a few minutes at the County Library’s new garden stage at Stephen Street to hear readings and choral work by young people of Sligo as I made my way to The Model Gallery for the curator’s tour of its current double exhibition Yeats & Son. Marie Bourke of the National Gallery of Ireland Education Officer spoke of the influence of Yeats' father, the artist John B. and of the difference between the poet son and the painter son.She has a very high opinion of the elder Yeats as a portrait painter.

Then on to Drumcliff where the official launch of the Yeats Day took place by Minister Jimmy Deenihan TD. Lots of speeches, thanks, some poetry, reminiscences and music.Senator Susan O’Keeffe (right above) is the driving force behind the event and she thanked the enormous number of people and institutions who helped to make the day a reality.

And in the Drumcliffe Tea House I had a look at the Yeats in Love Exhibition by Sligo-based illustrator and cartoonist Annie West. Again if . . . These are brilliant, have a look at them on the artist's website.

Back in the town I wrote a short poem and hung it with all the others at the Yeats statue outside the old Ulster bank and wandered into O’Connell Street, which was now closed to traffic for a Happy Birthday Mr Yeats celebration. Shop windows were full of birthday cards for the poet by Sligo school children and there were Yeats impersonators, music and art installations.

The rain had started and this did dampen the mood a little. Fatigue was another factor and at this stage I decided I had had enough and drove home. A great day. Happy birthday W.B.!!

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