A Kite for Aibhín

Heaney’s late addition to the collection is a poem of greeting to his second grand-daughter, Aibhín [aye-veen] born to son Michael and Emer. It echoes L’Aquilone, a lyric written by Italian poet Giovanni Pascoli.  Heaney dips into elements of the original but adapts and edits to meet his own immediate writerly needs. Some factors are shared: a special event triggers a joyful and happy memory lying forgotten in the consciousness; memory offers at once pleasure hope and nostalgia.

The evocation of succeeding generations and a family’s enjoyment at moments of celebration, the allegory of kite tugging against control and influence and unborn child waiting for release fuse into a memorable hymn of welcome. Heaney celebrates what is nearest and dearest in his human chain (v. also Route 110, XII).

A vision suspended in air (at once space, life-giving force and melody) triggers a memory from Castledawson days at The Wood (from another life and time and place). The distant shape in its sacred space (pale blue heavenly air) comes to life (white wing beating high against the breeze),recognized as a high-flier (yes, it is a kite).

Heaney winds back a generation to when, father then, he led the family into the fields (all of us trooped out) in familiar mid-Ulster surroundings (briar hedges and stripped thorn opposite Anahorish hill) to fly a kite.

He reprises his preparations – adopting a solid posture (I take my stand again) checking for favourable conditions in the sky above (scan the blue) – before releasing something of cosmic significance (launch our long-tailed comet).

A plaything of the wind the kite was skittish, now stable (hovers), now balking (tugs), now wavering (veers), now threatening to crash (dives askew) … then finally up, up and away (rises) to general acclaim (loud cheers from us below).

Such is an allegory of parenthood: managing a kite-child’s natural will (my hand like a spindle unspooling) recognising its frail beauty (thin stemmed flower) its determination to soar and endure (climbing and carrying), its exponential development (carrying farther, higher).

Such are his grandfatherly aspirations (longing in the breast) for this kite-child … hence the same pose (planted feet) and emotional zeal (gazing face and heart) to ensure the next stage in the chain (kite-flyer).

Just as the laws of physics dictate that ultimately the kite is freed (string breaks) so the process of childbirth will lead eventually (via the cutting of the umbilical cord) to Aibhín’s successful independence.

Her arrival is a moment for jubilation (separate – elate) – an adored grandchild’s life-journey at its very launch (kite takes off, itself alone, a windfall).

  • troop: contains elements of ‘walk in file’, ‘flock together’, ‘trudge’;
  • briar: jumbled prickly bushes
  • stripped: bare;
  • take one’s stand: adopt a solid posture;
  • Anahorish Hill: incline local to Mossbawn and The Wood Farm;
  • blue: metonymy for ‘sky’;
  • veer: swerve, go off course;
  • askew: neither straight nor level;
  • spindle: slender rod upon which wool or string is wound;
  • unspool: release by unwinding:
  • separate: become detached, uncouple;
  • elate: express ecstatic happiness;
  • windfall: godsend, bonanza;
  • Pascoli’s poem runs: Is there anything new under the sun,/ nay old I live elsewhere, and I feel/ which are bornaround the violets.
  • 6 triplets and a single line; generally 10 syllable line; scheme of rhyme and loose rhyme: blue/ askew;feet/ elate; higher/ flier as opposed to noon/ thorn; opposite/ comet etc;
  • Stanza 1 is an assonant weave:life/ time, place/ Pale; air/ air; heavenly/ air; white/ high; beating/ breeze;
  • assonances noon/ trooped; stand/ Ananhorish; climbing/ higher/ flier;
  • celebration expressed as a double imperative: separate, elate;alliteration: spindle/ Unspooling;
  • Beating:white wing (stated); small new heart (unstated)
  • the sound production of the [wh] diphthong: white wing/ when one mimics air movement;
  • the 2 longer sentences use enjambement to build crescendos;
  • participle –ing is a tool for drawing out the delivery;
  • the use of punctuation in the fourth stanza separates the antics of the kite; internal phrasing builds on its erratic behaviour;.
  • The tale of the kite includes early pointers as to the poem’s ultimate intent: the comet with its icy tail, is seen in legend as a precurser of a special event; flower, a delicate thing of beauty.
  • Heaney avoids specific religious connotation in describing the birth as windfall, a gift of nature,rather than  a godsend;
  • The final stressed windfallis a fitting climax to a piece that begins 
  • The final poem ‘A Kite of Aibhín’ recalls ‘A Kite for Michael and Christopher’ from Heaney’s 1984 collection Station Island. In the latter, the kite’s ‘long-tailed pull of grief’ is described as Heaney’s young sons are told ‘you were born fit for it, stand here and take the strain’. However, in ‘A Kite of Aibhín’, a poem written for Heaney’s second grandchild, instead of plunging into the woods, tellingly, ‘the kite takes off, itself alone’. Adam O’Riordan , 29 Aug 2010 in The Telegraph
  • Heaney is a meticulous craftsman using combinations of vowel and consonant to form a poem that is something to be listened to.
  • the music of the poem: fifteen assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhymes , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text;
  • syllables without highlight are largely the unstressed sound as in common, little [ə]

  • alliterative effects allow pulses or beats, soothings or hissings or frictions of consonant sound to modify the assonant melodies; this is sonic engineering of the first order;
  • a full breakdown of consonant sounds and where in the mouth they are formed is to be found in the Afterthoughts section;

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