Every year a Poet’s Picnic is held in celebration of the birthday of WB Yeats. This year is no exception. On afternoon of Saturday 13 June between 2 and 3 pm, live from the poet’s tower in Galway, there will be livestreaming event of poetry, music, and memories for Yeats’s 155th birthday. This is the first in a series of events held all summer long at Thoor Ballylee, as the tower opens virtually and for outdoor visitors in compliance with Covid 19 restrictions.
Yeats bought the old Norman tower at Ballylee for a song in 1916, and had it renovated by local builder Michael Rafferty under the direction of architect William A. Scott, with whom Yeats had a lively relationship, describing him on one occasion as a ‘drunken genius’. With its attached thatched cottage it became a comfortable summer home for his wife George and their two children, Michael and Anne, and the Yeats family returned year after year.
Living there inspired Yeats to write some of his best poetry. Fruits of this work were published in two volumes considered by critics among his best: The Tower (1928 ) and The Winding Stair (1933 ). They contain such poems as ‘The Tower’, ‘Meditations in Time of Civil War’, ‘Coole Park 1929’, ‘Blood and the Moon’, and many others, some featured in this weekend’s birthday celebrations.
This summer, events are set to continue. Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society continues to adhere to all the COVID-19 guidelines from the Government of Ireland. While this does not currently allow for visitors inside the tower, the Society continues to host special events with social distancing in place in the grounds, by the mill wheel, by the river, and online.
In addition to the Poet’s Picnic taking place this Saturday 13 June 2020, there are ambitious plans in the coming year to hold the type of events the tower has become famous for: poetry readings, plays, musical get-togethers, talks of historical, natural, and literary interest, including virtual multimedia tours, talks, and readings from WB Yeats’s inspirational home.
This summer the magic of the tower can thus be experienced in a number of ways. The grounds remain open to visitors practising social distancing, while the tower hosts small gatherings for invited attendees, and an exciting series of events livestreamed or broadcast to the world by video or audio link. (For all details, updates, or to donate to this voluntary group, visit the webpage yeatsthoorballylee.org or the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society facebook page ). Visitors will still be able to enjoy the charm of Ballylee, and perhaps agree that it is the perfect place for a poet to rest and write.