The W.B. Yeats Society of N.Y. was founded June 13, 1990, on the poet’s 125th birthday, by Andrew McGowan, who is currently president. It quickly became one of New York’s largest and most ambitious organizations dedicated to the life and work of a particular writer. The Society sponsors an international poetry competition, has a website with comprehensive linkage to other Yeats-related sites, provides information to Americans about the Yeats International Summer School in Ireland, and assists with the establishment of other Yeats societies in the U.S.
Every fall, the Society announces a series of annual programs through the following spring. Included are :
A kick-off of National Poetry Month at Barnes and Noble Union Square with readings, and presentation of the Society’s poetry awards.
An annual calendar that includes a series of weekday evening programs, usually at the National Arts Club. Past calendars have included joint meetings with the Joyce, Shaw, Shelley, Jung and Theosophical societies; lectures by biographers Nancy Cardozo, Roy Foster, Brenda Maddox and William M. Murphy, critic Helen Vendler, and poet and former U.S. Senator, the late Eugene J. McCarthy of Minnesota, Democrat presidential candidate in 1968; and “Evenings with” Yeats scholars at which they receive the society’s award for contributions to to Yeats studies, now named for its first recipient, critic and poet M.L. Rosenthal.
“A Taste of the Yeats Summer School,” an all-day Saturday event in April or May, often including a Yeats-related video, dramatic presentation, four or five talks by scholars who have lectured at the summer school, and an evening social that is also a reunion of alumni of the summer school. Information on the school, which takes place in Sligo, Ireland, in late July and early August, is available and officials of the school often attend.
For many years, the Society presented a program called "Poet Pass By!" Described as a Yeatsian vaudeville show, it explored the limits of poetic interpretation with film and television clips, song, dance and dramatic readings. Performers included such notables as Barbara Feldon, Tammy Grimes, Pete Hamill, Jared Harris, Charles Keating, Frank and Malachy McCourt, Paul Muldoon, Milo O’Shea and Arthur Schlesinger Jr.
The Society’s annual poetry competition, with a first prize of $500, second prize of $250 and honorable mentions, draws some 200 entries. Past judges include Eamon Grennan, L.S. Asekoff, Campbell McGrath, Billy Collins, Grace Schulman, Paul Muldoon, Marie Ponsot, Alice Quin, Jessica Greenbaum, Bill Zavatzky and Alfred Korn. The annual deadline for submissions is February 1s
The Society has taken a particular interest in John Butler Yeats (b.1839), raconteur, painter and father of the poet. He lived in New York City from 1908 until he died in 1922. Besides conducting walking tours of “John Butler Yeats’s New York,” the Society placed a plaque at one of his residences. Another favorite is the New York lawyer John Quinn (1870-1924), a patron to W.B. Yeats and his father, as well as numerous other writers and artists.
The Society publishes regular mailings to members and special website entries, and has produced two videos --: a 39-minute documentary about Michael Quirke, a Sligo woodcarver-storyteller who is an entertaining part of the summer school experience, and a 7-minute music video setting with pictures of the poet from infancy to old age set to a song by The Waterboys using his poem “The Stolen Child.”
The W.B. Yeats Society of New York is a literary society with the following objectives:
To provide an educational forum, primarily through lectures and events, for exchange of information about William Butler Yeats, his literary and other work, and the people, places, events and ideas that were part of his life and work.
To stimulate awareness of and interest in his work and life and things related to them.
To create awareness of other events and organizations serving the same purposes, particularly the Yeats International Summer School in Ireland, the Yeats Society, Sligo, that sponsors it, and other Yeats societies that, like ours, grew out of the summer school and Sligo society.
William Butler Yeats spoke at, slept at, and visited the National Arts Club a number of times. His father, John Butler Yeats spoke to its members on at least one occasion and was preparing a talk there when he died.
The National Arts Club is a private club in Gramercy Park, Manhattan, New York City. It was founded in 1898 by Charles DeKay, an art and literary critic of the New York Times, to "stimulate, foster, and promote public interest in the arts and to educate the American people in the fine arts". Since 1906 the organization has occupied the Samuel J. Tilden House, a landmarked Victorian Gothic Revival brownstone at 15 Gramercy Park, next door to the The Players, a club with similar interests.
The National Arts club offers a variety of shows, educational programs, and awards in theater, visual arts, film, literature and music. The club's mansion headquarters was designated a New York City landmark in 1966, and declared a National Historic Landmark in 1976. It is located in the Gramercy Park Historic District.
The Executive Board
The Society is run by volunteers.
Andrew McGowan, President
Dr. Alison Armstrong
Dr. John J. Casey
Will Linden, Webmaster
Doris Marie Meyer
Dr. Carolyn McGuire
Dr. Maureen O. Murphy
Eddie Vega, Digital Spec & Poetry Prize Admin
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