Launch of WB Yeats trail in Bedford Park

Image above: L to R Jeremy Vine, Torin Douglas, Polly Devlin, Cahal Dallat, Anne-Marie Fyfe, Fr Kevin Morris, Cllr Gerald McGregor; photograph Lucinda MacPherson

Poetry In Motion

Guest blog by Lucinda MacPherson

Local literati attended the launch of a new cultural trail celebrating the life and work of Nobel Prize-Winning Poet WB Yeats on Saturday (28 January).

The new smartphone app had its first outing on the anniversary of Yeats’s death in 1939, which WH Auden described as “a dark cold day”:

He disappeared in the dead of winter:
The brooks were frozen, the airports almost deserted,
And snow disfigured the public statues;

And so it might have felt in front of St Michael & All Angels Church this weekend had there not been a warming crowd gathered to pay homage to the Irish Poet Laureate and dramatist.

Images above: WB Yeats; Yeats’ house in Bedford Park

Following in the poet’s footsteps

Yeats’s formative early years were spent in Bedford Park where he wrote some of the world’s greatest and best-loved poems.

READ ALSO: W B Yeats, Nobel prize winning poet and one of the foremost figures of 20th-century literature

Now you can follow in his footsteps, viewing historic images on your phone whilst listening to his poems read by the lyrical voiced 2022 Oscar- and BAFTA-nominated actor (and project patron and inspiration!) Ciarán Hinds.

No snow disfigured Enwrought Light, the Yeats inspired spiral sculpture, as poets paid their tributes, introduced by Chiswick’s chief cultural ambassador, Torin Douglas, Director of the Chiswick Book Festival.

Images above: Cahal Dallat; Polly Devlin; photograph Lucinda MacPherson

Cahal Dallat’s Project

Poet Cahal Dallat, who, for many years, has been the driving force to revive Yeats’s legacy in Bedford Park, culminating in this trail, referenced Auden’s ending to ln Memory of W.B.Yeats:

“ln the nightmare of the dark 
all the dogs of Europe bark”

but countered that with:

“ln the deserts of the heart
Let the healing fountain start,
ln the prison of his days
Teach the free man how to praise…”

Thanking everyone else who had, he said had made it possible:

“for the light of poetry and Yeats’s genius and Bedford Park’s spirit of enlightenment, to shine with its “golden and silver light”, even in the dim and the dark and the half-light, in this much-loved corner of London.“

Image above: Polly Devlin giving her speech; photograph Torin Douglas

Brought up with poetry

Writer Polly Devlin, OBE, said that, having lived in Ireland and Somerset, her present home Chiswick was her favourite place, for its feeling of community. She couldn’t go along Turnham Green Terrace without meeting people she knew.

Polly also said Seamus Heaney (Polly was the Nobel-Prize-winning Irish poet’s sister-in-law) had loved strolling along the terrace and having coffee at Hack & Veldt.

The aim of the project is that children locally will grow up aware of Yeats and to be introduced to his poems. Polly read The Lake Isle of Innisfree from a well-thumbed book of poetry and added, for anyone who had not been brought up learning poetry at primary school by heart, she felt “very sorry for them.”

Image above: Jeremy Vine; photograph Lucinda MacPherson

Yeats “the poets’ equivalent of the Beatles” says Jeremy Vine

TV presenter Jeremy Vine engaged the audience with a debate on who were Britain’s biggest bands, the Beatles coming out top. Following on with favourite poets, Sylvia Plath was cited but, unsurprisingly, among the assembled, and on this day, Yeats won.

Jeremy declared Yeats to be the equivalent of the Beatles. The ultimate. The absolute. Jeremy also divulged that  he had been a bit of a “yob” at Durham University, where he read English. He wasn’t interested in poetry until his tutor gave him Yeats’s poem The Second Coming and he was immediately sold.

How to use the Yeats app

To explore the Yeats cultural trail using the smartphone app, start at the sculpture Enwrought Light, outside St Michael & All Angels Church on the corner of Bath Road and The Avenue.

Click on the information sign’s QR code, and allow your smartphone or tablet to guide you around ten @YeatsBedfordPk poetry-places (or you can pop in and out, pick and choose) with images, short-info talks, and readings of location-specific Yeats poems at each spot.

W B Yeats Bedford Park Artwork Project

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Interview with Conrad Shawcross, designer of Chiswick’s new sculpture Enwrought Light

See also: Chiswick House celebrates 300 years of design

See all the latest stories: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

Support The Chiswick Calendar

The Chiswick Calendar CIC is a community resource. Please support us by buying us the equivalent of a monthly cup of coffee (or more, if you insist). Click here to support us.

We publish a weekly newsletter and update the website with local news and information daily. We are editorially independent.

To subscribe to the weekly newsletter, go here.