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The NLI and Seanad Éireann launch 'Yeats Nobel Centenary' video series

Social media series features readings of Yeats' poems and excerpts from his Seanad speeches

Tuesday, 14 November 2023
Yeats Nobel Centenary Video Series

Seanad Éireann and National Library of Ireland launch video series to mark 100th anniversary of WB Yeats’ Nobel Prize in Literature.

Seanad Éireann and The National Library of Ireland (NLI) have today (14.11.23) launched a video series to mark the award of the Nobel Prize in Literature to WB Yeats. The poet and dramatist, who was a member of Seanad Éireann from 1922 to 1928, received notice of the award on this day 100 years ago.

A collaboration between Seanad Éireann and the NLI, the ‘Yeats Nobel Centenary’ series is a collection of 12 short videos featuring readings of a selection of Yeats’ poems and excerpts from his Seanad speeches. Readers include current and former senators, past winners of the NLI’s Poetry Aloud poetry speaking competition for schools, WB Yeats’ granddaughter Caitriona Yeats, and others across the cultural spectrum with a link to WB Yeats. Featured pieces include Yeats' Seanad debates about Irish manuscripts and divorce, as well as readings of poems such as ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree’; ‘When You Are Old’; ‘The Wild Swans at Coole’, and ‘The Second Coming’.

On 14th November 1923, via a phone message from The Irish Times, WB Yeats received the news of his Nobel Prize in Literature award, to be conferred in Sweden a month later. In his citation, the Nobel Prize chair described Yeats as 'the interpreter of his country' while Yeats described the prize as 'Europe's welcome to the Free State'.

Commenting on the launch of the videos Cathaoirleach of Seanad Éireann, Senator Jerry Buttimer said: “WB Yeats is recognised as one of Ireland’s greatest poets, but what is lesser known is that he was also an outspoken member of Seanad Éireann. A member of the first Seanad in 1922 and the 1925 Seanad, this coincided with the birth of the Irish Free State.

“As a senator, he was a frank contributor to debates. This included a motion on returning paintings from the Hugh Lane Collection from Britain to Ireland, and objecting to the use of the Irish language in parliamentary proceedings when it was not widely understood amongst its members. He was also a vociferous critic of the law that prohibited divorce in Ireland, arguing that it would alienate Protestants and create a barrier between the South and the North.”

“On behalf of Seanad Éireann, I am delighted to partner with the NLI on this project, which brings the cultural and political parts of Yeats’ life together and puts in context his award as giving expression to the spirit of a whole nation.”

Director of the National Library of Ireland, Dr Audrey Whitty said: “The National Library of Ireland holds the world’s largest collection of material relating to WB Yeats. His Nobel Prize medal and manuscripts of many of his poems, including ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree’ and ‘Easter, 1916’ are just some of the items on display as part of our Yeats’ exhibition.”

She added: “Yeats frequently visited the National Library of Ireland, so we are always exploring new ways to share his work. We are delighted to collaborate with Seanad Éireann on this celebratory project. Yeats was awarded the prize ‘for his always inspired poetry, which, in a highly artistic form, gives expression to the spirit of a whole nation’. We hope that the poems selected in this series will showcase his extraordinary talent.”

The ‘Yeats Nobel Centenary’ series was produced by the Oireachtas Broadcasting Unit and will run on the NLI and Oireachtas social media channels, and on Oireachtas TV. The videos will be published online on a phased basis between today and 10th December, the date on which WB Yeats accepted his Nobel Prize in Literature.