Yeats2015: Time to honor his life

Ed Forry

When you are old and gray and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true;
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face.

And bending down beside the glowing bars
Murmur, a little sadly, how love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.
– W. B Yeats

The great Irish poet William Butler Yeats was born on June 13, 1865, and as the new year 2015 approaches, plans are well underway to celebrate Yeats’s life and his magnificent body of work with a series of events, in Sligo, Dublin, London, and all across the world.
Yeats2015 is a part of the Irish government’s commemoration, and observances will take place at Coole Park, IT Sligo, the National Library of Ireland, and the National Concert Hall. The British Library also plans to host an event.
Paula Meehan, the Chair of Irish Poetry (Ireland’s current poet laureate), launched Yeats2015 in Sligo earlier this year, saying, “We have, I think, an unavoidable responsibility to Yeats here: let us by all means celebrate the many aspects of that myriad-minded man, but let us above all, in 2015, agree to celebrate the indomitable, indefatigable, joyous dreamer.”
According to information released by the organizers of the observances, there’s a specific vision for the year-long activities: “Yeats2015 will celebrate and commemorate the life, work, influence, and achievements of W.B. Yeats. Through an engaging, celebratory and cultural program, it will showcase Ireland as a dynamic, inspiring, and creative place.
“It will be a year-long national and international celebration of the life and works of the Nobel Prize winning poet William Butler Yeats. It will mark 150 years since his birth on June 13, 1865.
The celebrations will be rooted in Sligo – Yeats’s “spiritual home” and connect with every county across Ireland.
“The celebrations will draw people to Ireland to begin to understand what inspired him and to share that experience. It is intended that institutions and organizations from around Ireland and the world will partner with Yeats 2015 to celebrate this important event.
The initiative was formally launched on Yeats’s birthday last June by former Minister for the Arts Jimmy Deenihan. “Yeats was an international figure and it is fitting,” said Dennihan, that “Yeats2015 will have an international theme to its proceedings.” Drawing on the popularity of Tourism Ireland’s highly successful initiative of this year, “The Wild Atlantic Way,” the organizers have taken to referring to Yeats as “The Wild Atlantic Poet.”
At the launch of Yeats2015, Paula Meehan said, “He believed that the land he loved so intensely had power and force of and in itself. The Irish historical trope is so often, in poetry as well as in other modes of documentation, one where the land fails us, delivers us to famine, emigration, and sorrow. For some reason, it often goes unspoken that the land has nurtured millions of us in the century and a half since Yeats came wide-eyed into the world. I hope this coming commemorative year might integrate ideas of sustainability and reverence for our great mother back into the conversation about this island of Ireland. It would be a fitting acknowledgement of the reverence and love that Yeats had always for the very land itself.”
More information about plans for Yeats2015 are available on line at; the Yeats Society may be accessed at