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The Lake Isle of Innisfree - Polly Bolton

Since the last post I've been to see Michael Keegan-Dolan's wonderful Swan Lake at Sadler's Wells, a superb, uplifting, multi-textured combination of dance, physical theatre and folk music that manages to explore the failure of the Irish establishment and the Roman Catholic Church to come to terms with their dreadful betrayal of the faith of the Irish people and yet have you leaving the theatre felling cleansed and uplifted.

Which made me think of the last post - Guy Clarke's gathering "in some joint in Mission Beach...." where "William Butler Yeats in jeans"

gets up to sing, and this may have been what he sang:

but he couldn't have sung it better than the beautifully voiced Polly Bolton - an obscure legend - who strikes a perfect balance between the words and the passion in the song.

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,

And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;

Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,

And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,

Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;

There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,

And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day

I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;

While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,

I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

And she evokes a memory of a show I once commissioned from writer Timothy O'Grady and poets Matthew Sweeney and the wonderful Michael Donaghy who very sadly died too young in 2004. It was " Rave on Mr Yeats" (a quote from Van Morrison) and was a 200 seat sell-out for one night only at the Lilian Baylis Theatre, which is now the studio round the back of Sadlers Wells. The show consisted of a potted rendering of the life of Yeats by a drunken Liam de Staic, followed by a reading of his poetry, one poem each by some of best of contemporary poets then domiciled in London who included Sweeney and Donaghy, as well as Jo Shapcott, Kit Wright, and Fred D'Aguirre memorably reading "An Irish Airman foresees his Death". We used poets to read instead of actors because, as Sweeney claimed, they "read poetry better than actors, and of course, they're cheaper".

After the show, in the foyer, as it was St Patrick's day, we had a Guinness bar and a ceilidh band featuring Donaghy on bodhran, an Irish drum, and there ensued much high spirited mayhem, the like of which I'm sure has never been heard at Sadlers Wells before or since. I recall, somewhere around midnight, having to prevent a fistfight between - I think - Sweeney and art critic Scott Reyburn on exaclty that issue - who read poetry best, poets or actors. The ever gentle Michael Donaghy later suggested that if there was ever a good reason for coming to blows, that was it.

So I dedicate this to the memory of Michael Donaghy, who even now is with the others in that bar in Mission Beach. Rave on Mr Yeats, rave on Michael Donaghy, rave on.

Let's hear it again.

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