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Stanford Report, May 10, 2000

'Day of Irish Poetry' brings luminaries, performers and crowds to campus

With discussions about the legacy of W. B. Yeats and the blue of gentian wildflowers, "A Day of Irish Poetry" drew capacity crowds to Kresge Auditorium on May 4. References to the troubles in Northern Ireland also featured prominently in the conversations, which came one day before the Irish Republican Army's stunning announcement that it would disarm.

As the kickoff of a four-day San Francisco celebration, "Finnegans Awake: A Festival of Irish Writers," the Stanford event began with an afternoon panel discussion about "Poetry and the New Ireland" that was moderated by Robert Harrison, the Rosina Pierotti Professor in Italian Literature. Ronald Schuchard of Emory University talked about Yeat's legacy, the influence of the Easter Rising of 1916 and the Anglo-Irish tradition. Edna Longley of Queens University, Belfast, looked at the "cultural freight" that is carried by Irish poets and winked at the way politicians of many stripes are apt to quote lines. Before the start of the evening readings, Shay and Michael Black, members of Ireland's foremost family of song, drew the audience into harmonies of contemporary work from Ireland, England and Scotland. Then the poets themselves held forth, introduced by Eavan Boland, professor of English and director of the Creative Writing Program. Boland read a poem that recalled the early years she spent in New York, as the child of a diplomat father, when her mother took her to look at the wharves where the Irish had arrived years before. Michael Longley read from work that celebrated the turf carts and long boats of County Mayo and the granite shores and breakwaters of the Hebrides. And poets Medbh McGuckian, Desmond O'Grady and Paula Meehan kept the admiring crowd applauding for the remainder of the evening. SR