Described as “one of the most imaginative literary novelists writing in the English language today,” John Banville will open The Lady Gregory - Yeats Autumn Gathering in September.
It is fitting that Banville, whose stated ambition is to give his prose “the kind of denseness and thickness that poetry has”, should do the honours at this special 21st Gathering which celebrates poet WB Yeats. His novels include The Book of Evidence, The Sea, which won the 2005 Man Booker Prize, Ancient Light and, most recently, The Blue Guitar (to be published on September 6 ). Awarded the Kafka Prize, the Austrian State Prize for Literature and the Prince of Asturias Award, Banville’s screen-writing credits include The Sea and Albert Nobbs.
Recognising the remarkable influence of Lady Augusta Gregory on the development of Irish Theatre and Literature, this twenty-first Gathering highlights her lifelong friendship and patronage of Yeats. Events will take place in Coole Park and Thoor Ballylee, Yeats’ 15th century castle-home.
Translator of Irish legends and folklore, writer of comedies and fantasies, co-founder of the Abbey Theatre, Lady Gregory was active in many artistic areas. Although her stunning home at Coole Park is no longer standing, several other buildings remain, together with a nature reserve and a well-designed interpretative centre. Within its historic walled garden, sits the famous ‘autograph tree’ where world-renowned authors such as Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, Sean O’Casey, John Millington Synge and George Moore, carved their initials, marking Coole Park as the centre of the Irish Literary Revival in the 20th century.
Highlights of the Gathering include lectures, poetry readings, social events, plays, a guided walk through Coole Park woods and a tour, ‘Shopping with Mr. and Mrs. W. B.’ in Gort. The Chairman is Marc Conner, Professor of English and Associate Provost at Washington and Lee University, Virginia, USA. Speakers include:
Joe Hassett, Yeats Scholar and accomplished lawyer based in Washington, D.C., whose recent donation enabled the re-opening of Thoor Ballylee, will speak about ‘Friends Who Cannot Sup With Us: A Gathering of Shades Around Coole, Duras, and Thoor Ballylee’. James Pethica, teaches Irish Studies, Drama and Modernism at Williams College, Massachusetts. A former Director of the Yeats International Summer School, he will speak on Lady Gregory’s Early Irish Writings. Award-winning poet, Martin Dyar, recently Writer-In-Residence at the University of Iowa, will discuss Yeats’ 1917 book The Wild Swans at Coole; a centenary-themed lecture engaging with the richness of Yeats’ writing and the historical events surrounding the book. Moya Cannon, former editor of Poetry Ireland and a member of Aosdána, will join Martin in reading their favourite Yeats’ poems and from their own work.
Thoor Ballylee will resound to special voices on Sunday when Cecily O’Neill, an internationally recognised authority on drama and arts education, will host an interactive event, followed by the Curlew Theatre’s staging of ‘The Muse and Mr. Yeats’, a play by Eamon Grennan, Professor of English (retired ), Vassar College, about the three important female muses in the poet’s life. Participants can continue to enjoy the Open Forum discussion, plus entertainment and the Candlelit Dinner on Saturday.