Wednesday, June 13, 2012

W.B. Yeats won Nobel Prize for Literature

William Butler Yeats
It is the birthday of Irish poet and playwright William Butler Yeats (1865), whose body of work representing Irish literature won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923. He was one of the founders of the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, which featured the work of Irish playwrights. Yeats was closely associated with the Irish Literary Renaissance, the revival of Irish literature in the late 19th and early 20th century and he is considered a leading figure in 20th century English-language literature. Some scholars consider Yeats to be representative of the transition between the centuries, similar to the way Picasso represented the transition to modern art. Still, Yeats work has little in common with such modernists Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot. For a time, Pound served as secretary to Yeats. Early in his life Yeats fell in love with ardent Irish nationalist Maud Gonne. However, she turned down his proposals several times and ended up marrying someone else. They maintained a lifelong relationship. When he was 51, Yeats proposed to, Georgie Hyde-Lees, the 25-year-old friend of one of his old flames. They were married until his death in 1939 and produced two children. Yeats was fascinated with mysticism and the occult for most of his life, and he and Georgie experimented with "automatic writing," which is claimed to be influenced by  spiritual sources. Yeats is known for his use of symbolism in his work. His early writing was influenced by Percy Bysshe Shelly, Edmund Spenser, and William Blake. His poetry collections include The Wild Swans at Coole (1919), Michael Robares and the Dancer (1921), The Tower (1928), The Winding Stair and Other Poems (1933), and Last Poems and Plays (1940). Among his plays are The Countess Cathleen (1892), The Land of Heart's Desire (1894), Cathleen ni Houlihan (1902), The King's Threshold (1904), and Deirdre (1907).

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