Yeats at the Book Festival


I’m delighted that the Scottish Poetry Library has asked me to run a reading workshop at this year’s Edinburgh International Book Festival. It’ll be on Yeats, on August 16th, to mark the 150th anniversary of his birth. I’ll be following on from Robert Crawford’s talk on Yeat’s that same morning – Celebrating Yeats – which I’ll also be going to. I want to hear Crawford’s persepective on Yeats, but I will also be hoovering up titbits on Yeats’ life and works to help me answer the many questions that will come my way a few hours later.

My session part of a series of reading workshops called Nothing But the Poem. I’ve been running a number of these sessions in Edinburgh this year and the aim is to encourage folk who haven’t read much poetry to come along. No homework is required and we don’t delve into any literary or cultural criticism. Only that is quite hard with Yeats. In fact, a reading workshop on Yeats could very easily turn into Everything But the Poem. How can we read ‘Easter 1916′ without discussing the events of the Easter Rising in Dublin? It is particularly hard to stick to the poem when reading Yeats’ political poems – Irish history, and Yeats’ complex relationship with it is just so fascinating. Other poems are easier – ‘Wild Swans at Coole’, for example. It’s a beautiful and moving poem even if one knows nothing about Lady Gregory or Maude Gonne.

The trouble is, I know folk will ask. I’ve two biographies by my bed already…