Book: The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats

For a change of pace, I read The Collected Poems of W. B Yeats, edited by Richard J. Finneran.

The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats

I had read a little bit of Yeats through college – mostly famous ones, like “The Wild Swans at Coole” and “The Second Coming”. But I hadn’t read widely in his work (like, say, many of us have in Shakespeare). But I should have! Yeats (1865-1939) is known as an Irish statesman, poet, and playwright, as well as the winner of the 1923 Nobel Prize for Literature, who founded the Abbey Theatre (the national theater of Ireland, located in Dublin) and served as a significant force in the Irish Literary Revival. He was, to put it simply, a pretty important dude.

Yeats’s poetry is arranged chronologically through this book, so you can see the different phases of his body of work. The first phase plays on his interest in Irish legends (there are some poems about the Other Folk, the faery folk of Ireland) as well as in the occult. His poems became more realistic after he matured some, and often describe the (not necessarily simple) pleasures of country life, recalling his childhood in County Sligo. One of the remarkable features of his poetry is their rhythm and lyricism – they often read like songs, and should definitely be read aloud on occasion. Don’t let anyone give you weird looks… just subdue them with the magic of his verse, or threaten them with being swept by the faeries if they insult such a great Irish poet.

I highly recommend any and all of Yeats’s poetry. Students of mine will read a little with me in 9th grade, and a little more in AP English.


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