On Yeats’s Psychic Wife

 

I became enamored of the poems of WB Yeats when I was nineteen and still love to read them. I can recite some by heart (The Fascination of What’s Difficult, which I learned while I was working as a theater choreographer, includes the line “My curse on plays …”) A college boyfriend won me by being able to recite Lapis Lazuli (in a little Greek bar that inspired the one in Snake Face.) I created a dance cycle for the Crazy Jane poems, and also a solo dance for When You are Old. While I was reading the poet’s autobiography, I discussed his interests in mysticism and Irish mythology with a friend who was an English professor. She was quite sure Yeats’s wife George (yes, a woman named George) faked being psychic because it was the only way to win his heart away from Maude Gonne. His other passions, Irish patriotism and theater, lived in her, and she was beautiful, so the only way to compete was to communicate with a spirit world that announced itself by the smell of roses. I don’t know if it’s true or not but her hypothesis would make a good story.

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