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Discussion: The Metaphysics of W.B. Yeats and Poetic Inspiration

March 29 @ 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm

A successful poet youth, W.B. Yeats was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1923, at the age of 58. Quite strangely for a poet, he would go on to write some of his most enduring poetry late in life, after winning the Nobel Prize. He attributes his renewed inspiration to a metaphysical system he began developing in 1925 using a type of automatic writing where he would ask his wife questions while she was in a trance state. Yeats elaborated these ‘inspired’ writings into a book-length metaphysical work, A Vision. Asked if he takes his system seriously, Yeats replies:

“To such a question I can but answer that if sometimes, overwhelmed by miracle as all men must be when in the midst of it, I have taken such periods literally, my reason has soon recovered; and now that the system stands out clearly in my imagination I regard them as stylistic arrangements of experience comparable to the cubes in the drawing of Wyndham Lewis and to the ovoids in the sculpture of Brancusi. They have helped me to hold in a single thought reality and justice.”

Some scholars claim that Yeats’s work can only properly be interpreted in the context of this system. However, his poetry is widely read and appreciated independently of his metaphysics. For this discussion, we will look at an introduction to A Vision, as well as a few of his poems. Along with the linked introduction and poems, feel free to explore the other content on the affiliated sites.

Level 1 readings:
An Introduction to A Vision (this site has hyperlinks that explain various elements of Yeats’s metaphysics) http://www.yeatsvision.com/Intro.html

Level 2 readings:

- Adam’s Curse (1903) [An earlier poem] https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/43285/adams-curse
- Sailing to Byzantium (1928) https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/43291/sailing-to-byzantium
- The Tower (1928) https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/57587/the-tower-56d23b4072cea
- Byzantium (1933) https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/43296/byzantium
- Among School Children (1933) https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/43293/among-school-children
- Under Ben Bulben (1933) https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/43298/under-ben-bulben

Level 3 viewings:

Video interpretation of Leda and the Swan (YouTube, 12 mins)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j4CJ7h3mX4Q

Venue

Rendez Vous off Belmont
817 Southeast 34th Avenue
Portland, US
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