“Does ‘to set it out in a verse’, ‘risk blasphemy’?”: Reading W.B. Yeats’ ‘Easter 1916’ alongside Seamus Heaney’s ‘The Tollund Man.’
In this presentation and seminar by Dr. Derek Coyle, we will read two classic poems by Ireland’s Noble prize winning poets, W.B. Yeats’ ‘Easter 1916’ and Seamus Heaney’s ‘The Tollund Man’. There is more than one good reason to read them side by side, as both poems are born out of traumatic events in Irish history, the Easter Rebellion of 1916 and the Troubles in Northern Ireland in the 1970s. The question we will ask is: does Yeats’ glorification of the ‘martyrs’ of 1916 contribute to a mythic discourse that Heaney finds himself having to challenge and deconstruct in ‘The Tollund Man’, especially in the light of the continuing consequences of nationalist ideology in the North of Ireland in the late 1960s and early 1970s? We will compare the strategies of both poets, how they understand the role of poetry in public life, and we will ask questions about how they want us to think about and view the world. The presentation will offer a close reading of both poems, asking these questions, and there will be time for discussion afterwards.
Derek Coyle was awarded his PhD by the University of Glasgow. He has published poems and reviews in Irish Pages, The Texas Literary Review, Cuadrivio (Mexico), Wordlegs, The SHOp, and Skylight 47. He has been shortlisted and commended for the Patrick Kavanagh Award (2010, 2014), the Bradshaw Prize (2011) where he was runner-up (2013), and in 2012 he was a chosen poet for the Poetry Ireland ‘Introductions Series’. He has published critical articles on Derek Walcott and Michael Longley. He lectures in English Literature and Irish Studies at Carlow College.