Incantatory Yeats

Join us in the Long Room Hub at 7pm, Wednesday the 4th of November for an evening of Readings of Yeats’ poetry by Niall McCabe (with brief introductions from the Trinity Journal of Literary Translation Editorial Board).


William Butler Yeats is celebrated for many things, but the exactitude of his poetry, with every syllable carefully chosen and placed with a brilliance that arrests the reader can often fall unvoiced. This characteristic attention to detail extended to how he believed his poems should be spoken so as to charge them with the greatest possible power. His ideal for the oration of poetry involved letting the voice be carried by the rhythm of the verse rather than disrupting poetic metre to ‘make sense’ of the lines – a technique that he felt made prose of poetry. Yeats wanted to bring metre to the fore, to breathe life into the words. His well-known readings of a number of his poems recorded for the BBC give us a sense of his intentions, how he renders his verse with an incantatory quality—Nick Laird calls it “quavering shamanic intoning”—reminiscent of the musicality of oral poetry.