Poetry Class — an addendum

I admit it.

I don’t always research the poems I bring to class. If I like my reading of something, I use it. But my students like the Internet and so they go fishing.

To me, the Yeats poem I talked about before, “When You Are Old,” was about love from his perspective, lasting past his passing into the stars.

But all it took was a quick Google search for my students to find out about Maud Gonne. Gonne was an actress, feminist, and revolutionary. She was also a long time lover of Yeats who turned down his marriage proposals several times. They both married other people but she remained an inspiration for Yeats.

Knowing that, this poem becomes cruel. He holds out his love for her as something she will rue missing, and perhaps she did. Maybe he just hoped she would. My students all wrote about this.

I don’t know.

I think the beauty of poetry is that it can be interpreted in a number of ways. I think I still prefer the version where love that is expressed in art can outlast the person who felt that love. There may be a lesson Yeats wants to teach Gonne, that she should have recognized what he was offering, but then… maybe she did. When I think about it that way, the poem is only about missing out on love and kind of being shitty about it.

I think I’ll keep mine.

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