Today is the 150th Anniversary.
William Butler Yeats was an Irish poet and one of the foremost figures of 20th century literature. A pillar of both the Irish and British literary establishments, in his later years he served as an Irish Senator for two terms.
About the Writing
WB Yeats was the first Irishman to be 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 was a traditionalist who wrote sonnets for half a century. His knowledge of English form, Irish literature and Celtic mythology – inspired in part by summers at his mother’s home in County Sligo in the west of Ireland – resulted in an inspired body of work. If he had stopped at the end of the 19th Century he would have an impressive collection of nostalgic, pastoral poetry – but thankfully he didn’t, for his work in the 20th Century helped usher in modernism – and create a new language to understand modernity’s terror and beauty. It is this contribution that continues to resonate with poets today.
Did You Know?..
Yeats was fascinated by the occult and mysticism.
He joined the Golden Dawn, a secret society which practiced ritual magic, in 1890, progressing to its Inner Order in 1893, and remained an active member for most of his life. He also joined paranormal research organisation The Ghost Club in 1911.
So, think you know Yeats? Why not try the Guardian’s quiz – here.