Updated: 26/04/18 : 12:20:58
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Appointment, made to mark Poetry Day Ireland, is welcomed by WB Yeats’s granddaughter Caitríona Yeats

Poetry can help young people to move beyond the ‘surface’ and superficiality of an always-on smartphone culture, to discover deeper things about themselves such as a sense of adventure, fun and fearlessness.

That’s according to Irish-American poet Alice Lyons who is today (Thursday) unveiled as inaugural poet-in-residence of Yeats Society Sligo, the organisation which celebrates and promotes nationally and worldwide the work of Nobel Prize winner WB Yeats.

It is the society’s first time ever appointing someone to the role, illustrating its strong commitment to supporting the tradition of poetry in Ireland.

The society intends ramping up its activities to encourage the next generation of young poets and Yeats aficionados, by giving schoolchildren and young people access to more workshops and readings of Yeats’s work.

The announcement comes ahead of Poetry Day Ireland — today Thursday, 26 April - and was welcomed by Caitríona Yeats, granddaughter of WB who praised the idea and its possible impact on Irish poetry.

“I was delighted when I heard that the Yeats Society had decided to appoint a poet-in-residence and that the initiative will be launched today, 26 April, on what is Poetry Day Ireland,” said Yeats.

“It is a wonderful idea and a great addition to all of the other activities that the society has run and supported down through the years.”


The appointment complements the legacy left by WB Yeats and the encouragement and support he offered poets in his time. He networked with many poets, both famous and less famous.  

Like Yeats, Alice Lyons works to increase the accessibility of poetry and offer it in new contexts, media and communities with a particular focus on bringing it to young people. Her work has been recognised worldwide including at Harvard University where she received the Radcliffe Fellowship in Poetry and New Media.

She has also won the Patrick Kavanagh Award for Poetry, the inaugural Ireland Chair of Poetry Bursary from Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, and an Irish Film and Television Award (IFTA) nomination for the poetry film she co-directed with fine artist and animator Orla McHardy called ‘The Polish Language’.

Lyons holds a PhD from the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry at Queen’s University.

She plans to use her new title of poet-in-residence at the Yeats Society to hold workshops and readings with a focus on young people.

Lyons said: “Our children and young people are bursting with creative energy that often has little place to grow or go deep or be real. Their lives are squeezed by so many surface demands: the surface of surfing their screens, the surfaces of the social network and its superficialities, the surfaces of a school curriculum that often rewards compliance over risk.

“Poetry can be a place for children and young people to venture out into the deeper night-sea waters of their lives to plumb, to play, to discover. The hope is to offer Sligo a place, as young Yeats had, to open up to fun, fearlessness and adventure through the medium of poetry.”

Launch today of Yeats International Summer School and the
unveiling of inaugural poet in residence Alice Lyons
Photo: StoryLab.ie


Susan O’Keeffe, Director of the Yeats Society, said the organisation is delighted to name its inaugural poet-in-residence.

She said: “For Yeats Society Sligo to have an ambassador for contemporary poetry is our salute to the importance poetry plays in our lives and is our commitment to supporting the poets that enrich our lives and to reaching out to bring poetry to young people.

“The range of poetry is enormous, as it should be; it encompasses life in all its glorious technicolour and with all its constant change. WB Yeats knew about the ‘deep heart’s core’ and he knew that reaching that core was the remit of a poet.

“Encouraging young people, as young as possible, to embrace poetry and to see it as a lifelong companion, is part of our decision to appoint a poet-in-residence at the Yeats Society. In purely practical terms, young people especially often find in poetry a means of expressing themselves that is not readily available in any other form.”