Talk about Yeats' career as a modernist writer.

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Critics say Yeats early poetry reflected his admiration of Edmund Spenser and the Romantic period poets. It was later that he realized his poetry needed realism to accompany the Irish mythology, folk tales, and subject matter in order to make it more contemporary and relevant. It was in his publication Responsibilities that the Modernist poet that Yeats came to be was first discernible. Critics say that the first sign of his break with Romanticism was the new satiric tone that was evident in the poems published in Responsibilities. Satire is the use of humorous criticism aimed at bringing about a change in society, government, religion, an individual group or person, or any other significant cultural aspect. Satire is employed when the poet, playwright, or author sees that a part of society is letting down their responsibilities in upholding an agreed upon social contract, such as the absence of hypocrisy and greed among clergy.

Yeats, for one thing, satirically attacked the Irish middle class for not being able to comprehend excellence in the arts. His poetic style became more streamlined with less Romantic style sentimentalism. His friendship with poet Ezra Pound influenced his style as Pound gave him stylistic guidance while also introducing Yeats to Japanese Nō drama. This style of dramatic theater inspired Yeats with a new appreciation of symbolism. Symbolism enhanced his continuing emphasis on myth as is seen in "Easter 1916." His friendship with Lady Gregory added occult elements to Yeats' modernist poetry as Lady Gregory introduced him to automatic writing (a type of writing done while in a trance and attributed, sometimes with a signature, to entities in the spirit or angelic realms). Yeats epitomized his lifetime of modernist writing in "Self" and "Soul," which represent the realism of a celebration of concrete life over the abstract spiritual soul.