Feature Articles

THE WB YEATS INTERNATIONAL SUMMER SCHOOL by Jonathan Allison

(Poetry Ireland News, July/August 2005)

The 46th Yeats International Summer School will be opened in Sligo by Marie Heaney on the afternoon of Sunday 31 July. Poets featured this year include Vona Groarke, Paul Muldoon, Medbh McGuckian, Tom Paulin, Julie O’Callaghan, Eamon Grennan, Dennis O’Driscoll, Leland Bardwell, Peter Fallon, Peter McDonald and Conor O’Callaghan. Booker prize nominee Andrew O’Hagan and Sebastian Barry will also read. The Yeats society has organized several lunchtime readings and occasional lectures, which contribute to the atmosphere of the Sligo Festival and provide another forum for local writers. Helen Vendler is coming, always as popular with students; other seasoned participants include Warwick Gould, Deirdre Toomey, Terence Brown, Patrick Crotty, Adrian Frazier and Ronald Schuchard, as well as newer names such as Matt Cambell (Sheffield), Grigory Kruzhkov (Moscow), Noreen Doody (Dublin) and Catherine Morris (Belfast).

On Tuesday 2 August, Eamon Grennan (winner of the 2003 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize) will offer a Poetry Workshop (2pm) at the Yeats Memorial Building; he and Dennis O’Driscoll will later read at the Model Arts & Niland Gallery. Grennan’s latest collection is The Quick Of It, while Dennis O’Driscoll, whose New and Selected Poems was published last year, was the 2005 recipient of the E.M. Forster Award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. A lunchtime reading on Wednesday 3 August will feature Julie O’Callaghan and Leland Bardwell, and Tom Paulin will read that evening at the Model Arts & Niland Gallery (he is also lecturing on ‘Acoustic Pattern in Yeats’ on Wednesday morning).

This year marks the 35th anniversary of the founding of the Gallery Press, which will be celebrated by Peter Fallon, Medbh McGuckian and Conor O’Callaghan on Thursday 4 August. McGuckian’s last collection was The Book Of The Angels (2004); O’Callaghan’s Fiction (2005), was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. Another Gallery poet, Vona Groarke, will give a two day Poetry Workshop (Saturday 6 – Sunday 7 August) and will give a reading on Sunday evening, accompanied by harpist Claire Roche. (Last Year, Claire accompanied a reading by Richard Murphy; the alternation of voice and harp makes for an extremely pleasant, not to say mesmerizing experience).

The Irish Premiere of Sword Against The Sea (adapted from the Cuchulain Cycle takes place on Saturday 6 August at the Hawk’s Well Theatre. The play is directed by Sam McCready, based on an adaptation by Arthur Feinsod. Ciaran McCauley of Blue Raincoat Theatre Company will play the part of Cuchulain. This comes highly recommended. There will be another Yeats production on Friday 12 August, to be performed by the students of the Summer School drama workshop, also directed by Sam McCready. I might add that Coole Lady, Adapted from Lady Gregory’s writings, will be launched by Lagan Press at Keohane’s Bookshop on Tuesday 9 August. This play performed by Joan McCready, has been very popular wherever it has been staged – firstly in Sligo some years ago, but most recently off-Broadway, at Theatre 315, enjoying an extremely successful run.

On the evening of Tuesday 9 August we go back to Keohane’s Bookshop for another launch: this time Yeats Annual (volume 16, editor Warwick Gould) and a Palgrave Macmillan edition of Yeat’s Mythologies (editor Deirdre Toomey). After a couple of glasses of wine, on to the Model Arts & Niland Gallery for the main event of the evening: Andrew O’Hagan. His most recent novel, Personality (about a 13 year old singer growing up above a fish-and-chip shop in Scotland) won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in 2003, the year in which O’Hagan was nominated by Granta as one of 20 Best of Young British Novelists.’ Also that year, he won the E.M. Forster Award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Peter McDonald, whose latest book is Pastorals, reads to us at lunchtime on Wednesday 10 August. That night, Sebastian Barry will appear at the Model Arts & Niland Gallery.

Each yeah for the past several years, Paul Holbrook of the King Library Press of the University Of Kentucky has printed a limited edition broadside poem on fine, Hahnemulle paper, signed by the author, as a keepsake for the Yeats summer school. These are given to all students and lecturers. (There has always been the concern that when overseas students continue their excursions to Amsterdam, Marrakesh or Roundstone, the broadside will be double-folded and squashed beside a leaky bottle at the bottom of a rucksack, but postal tubes have emerged as a popular remedy for the problem). In previous years we have produced broadsides of Seamus Heaney’s The Blackbird of Glanmore, Brendan Kennelly’s I See You Dancing Father, and Michael Longley’s Ceilidh. This year a poem by Paul Muldoon has been printed for the occasion. One of the many interesting things about Muldoon is his website (www.PaulMuldoon.net), which reveals where he is appearing at any given time of the year. There is a link to the website of his new band, Rackett: here you read the slightly unexpected words: ‘ Paul Muldoon (lyrics, guitar, percussion)’. You can hear Paul Muldoon ‘unplugged’ in Sligo, on Thursday 11 August at 8.30pm.

As usual, hats off to members of the Yeats Society and their sponsors (including Poetry Ireland), without whom all this would not be possible.

The Yeats fortnight for many students will involve not only quiet hours of study by the Garavogue, but evenings on the town listening to local musicians, exploring the pubs and in general soaking in the atmosphere, and no doubt informal gathering will occur on the top of Knocknarea and Ben Bulben, not to mention midnight dips at Rosses Point. Many students have registered for the school, one or two from Brazil, many others from North America, France and Germany. All we need is some decent weather… 

Visit the website at www.yeats-sligo.com

Jonathan Allison is a director of the Yeats International Summer School.


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