What if you could take your favorite poet to work with you? Imagine having a bard in your back pocket when you climb a ladder to shingle a roof. Or taking a poet with you when you check your crops, to see if the corn is as high as an elephant’s eye. We can’t wait to see what our favorite poets will be doing in your workplaces next month.
Take Your Poet to Work Day is coming July 16
To help you play and celebrate with us, we’re releasing poets each week in a compact, convenient format you can tuck in your pocket, tool belt, or lunchbox. Last year, we gave you Sara Teasdale, Pablo Neruda, T. S. Eliot, Rumi, Edgar Allan Poe, and the reclusive Emily Dickinson (for folks who work at home). We even released a full collection, The Haiku Masters: Matsuo Basho, Yosa Buson, and Kobayashi Issa.
This year, we’re building on the collection, adding one new poet each Wednesday, up until the big day. We started the celebration over the past few weeks with Langston Hughes, Adrienne Rich and John Keats. Today, add one of the finest poets of the 20th century, Irish poet William Butler Yeats.
Take Your Poet to Work: W.B. Yeats
Click here for a downloadable version of Take Your Poet to Work Day Printable – W.B. Yeats that you can print, and color and cut out for the big day.
William Butler Yeats
We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, but of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry.
William Butler Yeats was born in 1865 in Dublin into a family of the Protestant Anglo-Irish landowning class. He lived in Dublin and London during his growing up years. He was very much affected by the politics of the time, as he was a young adult when the protestant minority in power began to be displaced by the predominantly Catholic nationalist movement.
Yeats studied law for a time but eventually moved to London to study art. He was an accomplished playwright, and a founder of the Irish Theatre which was later to become the Abbey Theatre. While he is better known for his poetry, Yeats was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923 more for his theatrical works than his verse. He was the first Irishman to be awarded the prize.
His first collection of poems was published in 1889, and there is strong evidence of the influence of Edmund Spenser and Percy Bysshe Shelley. Later, his poetry became more rooted in realism and the physical, with influence of Ezra Pound and William Blake apparent. Common themes in his poetry include mysticism, spiritualism, the occult and Irish identity and nationalism.
Yeats was appointed to the Irish senate in 1922. He was married, but had an ongoing relationship of sorts with a former love, Irish activist and revolutionary Maud Gonne. Known as one of the greatest poets of the 20th century, Yeats died in 1939.
When You Are Old
When you are old and grey 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.
The Living Beauty
I’ll say and maybe dream I have drawn content—
Seeing that time has frozen up the blood,
The wick of youth being burned and the oil spent—
From beauty that is cast out of a mould
In bronze, or that in dazzling marble appears,
Appears, but when we have gone is gone again,
Being more indifferent to our solitude
Than ‘twere an apparition. O heart, we are old,
The living beauty is for younger men,
We cannot pay its tribute of wild tears.
Learn more about Take Your Poet to Work Day and our featured poets
Check out our Poetry at Work Day Infographic and help spread the word
Learn more about W. B. Yeats
Post and illustrations by LW Lindquist.
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- Summer Break & Take Your Poet to Work Day - July 17, 2021
- Adjustments: A Belated Bicentenary Party for John Keats - March 4, 2021