We left the Antrim coast and Northern Ireland and drove back into the Republic, with stops in Sligo, then Westport.
These two environmental stories caught my eye:
Dooagh Beach is back! The strand on the west side of Achill Island, Mayo, disappeared 33 years ago during a storm. Now, a “freak tide” has deposited hundreds of tons of sand where for more than three decades there has been nothing but rocky tide pools.
This Smithsonian.com story links to other coverage.
Meanwhile, The Irish Times reports that 30 to 40 gorse fires are raging across the country. The majority of the fires are burning around the Border area and Roscommon and Sligo, but the most significant blaze is in Cloosh Valley in Galway, according to the Times.
I’m always happy to publish a guest post from people visiting or just returned from Ireland. I met Michael Whelan at an Irish Network-DC event earlier this year. His writing on Ireland has appeared in Irish Central and éirways magazine. His latest poetry collection is After God, an Irish Catholic American memoir available on Amazon. He sent this correspondence from Sligo. MH.
“Come away oh human child
To the waters and the wild … “
So wrote W. B. Yeats in Stolen Child in the voice of the fairies luring a little one to swap him with their farie changeling. So came we under mythic Benbulbin mountain, close to Yeats’ grave, to the very waterfall of Glencar made iconic by his beloved poem. It is first stop of the first day at the Yeats International Summer School, 2016.
I am among the 50 here from some dozen countries to delve deep into the world of Yeats. We range from newly graduated English majors to doctoral students and university-level teachers of literature to just plain souls who read Yeats for the fun or the challenge of it. Mostly everyone here is a poet, to some degree, as am I.
Mornings at the Hawks Well theater are spent listening to world experts lecture on Yeats from every conceivable angle. This year, much attention is focused on his Easter, 1916, given the 100th anniversary of the Dublin uprising and Yeats’ conflicts with the poem. Much is fascinating, too, in the talks and illustrations on Yeats’ surreal dimension in approach to theater.
Afternoons are for seminars, held at the Victorian-style Yeats Society building in the center of Sligo City. You choose a topic for a week. Mine is Yeats & Heaney, a compelling class led by Dr. Rand Brandes, of Lenoir-Rhyne University. He is rich with remarkable anecdotes from his 30 years working closely with Seamus Heaney. We uncover revealing parallels and telling differences between the two poets. I come away with a sharpened eye such that I won’t read Yeats or Heaney again without drawing from the class.
Another amazing experience in awaking the creative imagination comes in an intensive two-day poetry workshop by Vona Groarke, editor of the Poetry Ireland Review.
It’s not just what happens in class that makes the summer school experience. It’s the everywhere-around spell of Yeats that still hypnotizes all of Sligo. Here everything is just around the corner from everything else — creating the feel you are walking the buzzing streets as in a stage set for the likes of Yeats theater, the wild river rushing under the bridge next to the Yeats Society building and the sky flipping theatrically, constantly–Irishly–between showers and sunny spots.
This is the third “historic handshake” between Irish republicans and the royal family.
Prince Charles’ great-uncle, Lord Mountbatten, was killed nearly 36 years ago in an IRA bombing near Mullaghmore in County Sligo.
Charles and his wife, Duchess of Cornwall Camilla Parker Bowles, are visiting Ireland for four days.
The 150th anniversary of the birth of William Butler Yeats is being celebrated all year long, as I blogged about in February.
Now comes a Travel section piece in The New York Times about Yeats’ poem, “The Lake Isle of Innisfree.” Published in 1888, the poem is about an island in the middle of Lough Gill, County Sligo. It was partially inspired by Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden’s writings, according to the article author Russell Shorto. He continues:
The whole landscape echoes the poem. You realize, sitting there, identifying the sound of the lake water with the deep heart’s core, that the Yeats who wrote the poem does not actually intend to retreat from the world and move to this spot. He is reaching for something. He is aware, at 23, of death and the inexorability of change. He is searching, trying to find his balance, his center. He knows he left it somewhere in his past, as we all have done.
Here’s the full story, and here’s the poem: