Emily C. Bloom




In a series of radio broadcasts from 1931 to 1937, Yeats presented several of his poems about the Easter Rising but, curiously, not his most famous Rising poem, “Easter, 1916.” The poems he chose, as well as those he omitted, reveal his understanding of radio’s commemorative properties. Radio’s ephemerality and its intimacy were especially well-suited for Yeats’s minor poems, which were better able to present shifting perspectives on the Rising from the vantage of the present moment, unlike “Easter, 1916,” which was quickly settling into the canonical version of the event. Through multiple broadcasts responding to historical developments, Yeats presented new perspectives on the Rising and emphasized the event’s changing meaning. Yeats recognized the role of mass media in shaping historical memory and was early to see the radio as a key medium for reframing the Rising as it began to settle into history. Broadcasting his 1916 poems provided a means for Yeats to subtly alter previous statements on the Rising during the early years of the Irish Free State and to re-contextualize some of his own earlier work.