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Silly Willie: A gentle poke at Yeats's lifelong crush on Maud Gonne

Artist Annie West’s book of illustrations might make you feel a little sorry for WB. But only a little.

Party ruined Source: Annie West/Yeats In Love via New Island

WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS: poet, saviour/slayer of Leaving Cert students – and a man in love.

The popular perception of WB as a man who suffered a lifelong unrequited passion for revolutionary Maud Gonne has inspired a tongue-in-cheek book of illustrations from artist Annie West.

Yeats in Love will be launched this Friday night in Dublin, and the following Friday, 21 November, in Sligo.

West, who lives in the heart of Yeats country in Sligo and whose grandmother played the church organ at the poet’s funeral, has taken scenes from the Maud and William story and poked fun at the high-mindedness of the poetry they inspired.

While Yeats wrote reams of adoring love poetry about his passion for Maud Gonne (probably more about his passion for her, than about Gonne herself), she once said:

As for Willie Yeats I love him dearly as a friend but I could not for one minute imagine marrying him.

Not that it put off WB. He proposed to Gonne on four separate occasions; she refused him each time. He then proposed to Gonne’s 22-year-old daughter Iseult; she turned him down too.

This seeming whiff of desperation is captured neatly in the vignettes in West’s book:

MGSC Source: Annie West/Yeats In Love via New Island

In an introduction to the book Yeats in Love, poet Theo Dorgan questions whether Yeats really loved  Maud Gonne as a mature adult, or if he remained wedded to the ideal of the high passion for her that he experienced as a young man.

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Looking at West’s illustrations, he notes:

Two things struck me. The first is that it is indeed possible to find a gentle comedy in Yeats’s professed lifelong infatuation; the second is that perhaps, after all, the old boy was putting it on a bit.

Joyce Source: Annie West/Yeats In Love via New Island

Yeats in Love by Annie West will be launched at the 2014 Dublin Book Festival this Friday, 12 November at 6pm at the Winter Garden, Smock Alley Theatre.

It will be launched the following Friday, 21 November, at 6pm in the Yeats Memorial Building in Sligo.

Yeats in Love is published by New Island; book design by Amy West.

Open thread: What’s your favourite WB Yeats poem>

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