Past exam questions on W.B. Yeats

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Reading through past exam questions, planning them and answering them is an excellent way to prepare yourself for possible future questions.

2014
‘Yeats uses evocative language to create poetry that includes both personal reflection and public commentary.’
Discuss this statement, supporting your answer with reference to both the themes and language found in the poetry of W.B. Yeats on your course.

2011
‘Yeats can be a challenging poet to read, both in terms of style and subject matter.’
To what extent do you agree with this statement? Support your answer with suitable reference to the subject matter on your course.

2010
‘Yeats’s poetry is driven by a tension between the real world in which he lives and an ideal world that he imagines.’
Write a response to the poetry of W.B. Yeats in the light of this statement, supporting your points with suitable reference to the poems on your course.

2005
Write an article for a school  magazine introducing the poetry of W.B. Yeats to Leaving Certificate students. Tell them what he wrote about and explain what you liked in his writing, suggesting some poems that you think they would enjoy reading. Support your points by reference to the poetry of W.B. Yeats that you have studied.

1998
‘Yeats’s masterful style – particularly his use of symbolism – richly expresses a great variety of themes,  personal and political.’
Discuss this view, supporting your answer by quotation or reference to the poems of Yeats on your course.

1995
‘Bitter disillusionment with the realities he found in Ireland and a reluctant acceptance of the limitations he found within himself are the major thrusts of Yeats’s poetry.’
Discuss this view, supporting your answer by quotation from or reference to the poems by Yeats on your course.

W.B. Yeats  1865 - 1939

W.B. Yeats
1865 – 1939

Two Approaches to Answering Poetry: Yeats 2010

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When answering a Leaving Certificate Poetry question, the key is to answer the question. That might seem obvious but not every stays on task throughout the whole answer. The question must be responded to from the outset, so engagement with the task from the introduction, through the main body and right into the conclusion. Take a look at the following approaches to answering the 2010 question on W.B. Yeats:

2010 – “Yeats’s poetry is driven by a tension between the real world in which he lives and the ideal world that he imagines.” Write a response to the poetry of W.B. Yeats in the light of this statement, supporting your points with suitable reference to the poems on your course.
Ideas: 
Tension – struggle – conflict – dichotomy
Represented through contrast, antithesis, irony, balances, symbolism, paradox, oxymoron, repetition, etc…
Real v ideal –
Past and present
Mortality and immortal
Memory and reality
Hopes and reality
The effects of time
The fact of change
Disappointment with life
Thematic Approach
Intro: Address the task – use synonyms and the same words
Refer to overall themes that encompass the requirements of the task eg political issues, personal changes, the effects of time, disappointment with the world as we know it
What to expect in the essay
MB 1 & 2: Focus on the task
Political issues – Sept 1913 and Easter 1916
Include aspects of style, personal engagement, hammer the task home
MB 3: Focus on the task
The effects of time – In Memory
Include aspects of style, personal engagement, hammer the task home
MB 4: Focus on the task
Personal changes, the desire for immortality – Wild Swans* and Sailing to Byzantium
Include aspects of style, personal engagement, hammer the task home
MB 5: Focus on the task
Disappointment with the world – Wild Swans* and An Irish Airman
Include aspects of style, personal engagement, hammer the task home
Conc: Sum up key ideas
Relate all to the task (synonyms)
Personal engagement
(*Brief reference to one poem is acceptable – five poems in great depth.)
Poem by Poem Approach (Solid intro and conc needed – similar to Thematic Approach)
1. ‘September 1913’ – Past and present – public and political
2. ‘Easter 1916’ – Ideal aspirations v real tragedy – public and political
3. ‘In Memory of…’ – Memory and reality – public and personal
4. ‘Wild Swans…’ – Mortality and Immortality – personal
5. ‘Sailing…’ – Mortality and Immortality – personal
6. ‘An Irish Airman…’ – life’s futility vs freedom through death
Whichever approach you take: in every paragraph refer to theme, aspects of style and respond personally. Stay focussed on the task from beginning to end (ie respond to the question).