Professor Fernandes talks about the hymns of Yeats’ poetics

Mario Sanchez Castillo

Instead of reciting a Catholic hymn when there is turbulence in airplanes, English professor and poet Megan Fernandes recites William Butler Yeats’ poem “The Song of a Wandering Aengus.”

“I’m really afraid of flying, but I’m not really religious. So whenever there is turbulence, I used to recite a hymn because I went to Catholic school, but it felt really [disingenuous] because I’m not very religious.”

Adding that after a while, the poems would get “too wordy,” so she’d only reside the last two lines:

“The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.”
She said there is something about the music of the poem that makes her “feel really safe, it’s almost like a mantra.”

Though Fernandes is not religious, she says that prayers are quite poetic. She remembers growing up in love with the “attached to the recitation of prayer and communal recitation.” she adds, “if you actually think about the Hail Mary prayer, it’s pretty beautiful, it feels very intimate and there is something about praying to a woman also, I really like that.”

Fernandes’ other favorites lines of the poem are:

And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.

She said that what she liked about Yeats is the way in which he “embodied” his “masculinity.” Adding, “he was super emo, he was kind of unsure of himself, he has this great unrequited love which became a really big part of his personality.

“He would technology in his background to communicate with other realms. Immediately what drew me to Yeats is that there is something queer about his investigations and his interests. What I found interesting is that a lot of my professors told me that I would outgrow his early works.”

Fernandes has always loved literature. When she was younger, her household only owned two books of poetry, which were Emily Dickinson’s “Collected Poetry” and Khalil Gibran’s “The Prophet.”

In addition to Yeats’ poem, Fernandes loves Jean Toomer’s “Cane.”

“Jean Toomer’s Cane…I think [is] the best book of literature written in the 20th century,” she said. “I remember thinking that it is really cool the way Toomer talks about animals and also smoke.”

Fernandes said she would recommend early Yeats to anyone, especially people who are into mythological, surreal kinds of images. 

“That was sort of Yeats’ bread and butter for a part of his life. I think [The Song of a Wandering Aengus] is a poem for people who like romantic poetry that occurs in nature that is slightly nostalgic, slightly surreal, but [that also has tight stanzas],” she added. 

One piece of advice that Fernandes said she would give is to get up and do what you want to do. 

“You know you have one life. What do you want to get up and do? I want to get up and talk about sonnets every day, you know. That’s what I look at, I feel lucky that I am in a job where I could do that,” Fernandes said.