A conversation with authors Kim Bendheim and Joseph Hassett
With host Rufus Collins
Featuring readings by Obi Abili, Terry Donnelly, Colin McPhillamy, and Sarah Street
Directed by Rufus Collins
Filmed by Rory Duffy
In this one-night-only live online discussion about the lives and legacies of William Butler Yeats and Maud Gonne, biographers Joseph Hassett and Kim Bendheim discuss their new books about Yeats and Gonne, respectively, with Irish Rep company member and Yeats scholar, Rufus Collins. The authors discuss the relevance of Yeats in the 21st Century and the impact of his complex relationship with Irish activist Maud Gonne, who continues to intrigue almost 70 years after her death.
Pertinent poems by Yeats read by Obi Abili, Terry Donnelly, Colin McPhillamy, and Sarah Street intertwine the discussion, along with presentations of photographs and artwork that have inspired and informed both books.
This event is free and is available to the public on the Irish Rep YouTube channel and below. Donations of $10 per viewer are suggested for those who can afford to give.
Yeats Now: Echoing Into Life, by Joseph M Hassett
WB. Yeats believed that lyrics can ‘take on a second beauty, passing as it were out of literature and becoming life’. By focusing on Yeats’s most memorable lines of poetry, Joseph Hassett reveals new ways of enjoying a body of work that speaks to the twenty-first century. For example, ‘The Stare’s Nest by my Window’ is informed by the circumstances in which it was written. Locked in his tower amid the violence and uncertainty of civil war, Yeats felt ‘an overmastering desire not to grow unhappy or embittered, not to lose all sense of the beauty of nature’. Finding the perfect metaphor for a necessary balm, he spotted an empty bird’s nest and ‘began to smell honey in places where honey could not be’. The poem’s plea – ‘O honey-bees, / Come build in the empty house of the stare’ – addresses readers in any state of physical or emotional isolation. This book is an enriching companion to the work of one of the world’s great poets. Its iconography – portraits, photographs, book designs, manuscript letters – illuminates the poems and the life. Its continuing dialogue with writers past and present, from Joyce to Beckett, Heaney, and others, offers up an enduring harvest of wisdom for our age.
The Fascination of What’s Difficult by Kim Bendheim
Maud Gonne, the legendary woman known as the Irish Joan of Arc, left her mark on everyone she met. She famously won the devotion of one of the greatest poets of the age, William Butler Yeats. Born into tremendous privilege, she allied herself with rebels and the downtrodden and openly defied what was at the time the world’s most powerful empire. She was an actress a journalist and an activist for the cause of Irish independence. Ignoring the threat of social ostracism, she had several children out of wedlock. She was an independent woman who charted her own course.
Yet Maud Gonne was also a lifelong anti-semite, someone who, even after the horrors of the Second World War, could not summon sympathy for the millions murdered by the Nazis. A believer in the occult and in reincarnation, she took mescaline with Yeats to enhance visions of mythic Irish heroes and heroines, and in mid-life converted to Catholicism in order to marry her husband, the Irish Catholic war hero John MacBride.
What motivated this extraordinary person? Kim Bendheim has long been fascinated by Maud Gonne’s perplexing character, and here gives us an intensely personal assessment of her thrilling life. The product of much original research, including interviews with Gonne’s equally vivid, unconventional descendants, The Fascination of What’s Difficult is a portrait of a powerful woman who, despite her considerable flaws, continues to inspire.
Purchase The Fascination of What’s Difficult on www.orbooks.com. Use the discount code IRISHREP15 to get 15% off!
To watch this digital event on your SmartTV via the Youtube app, type in “Irish Rep” or the name of the event to your search bar on the app.