I grew out of all this
Like a weeping willow
The appetites of gravity.
(Seamus Heaney “Kinship”)
“Kinship” is a long poem, and one of Heaney’s that I love coming back to because of the quality of expression and the mixed personal and political meanings. There are so many lines that I love, although a number of them are perhaps too dark to throw at unsuspecting blog readers out of context, and others are likely too obscure without the rest of poem to bolster them. But these lines which I have quoted, these are some of my favorite lines from Heaney, and perhaps some of my favorite lines ever. The poem up to this point is primarily focused on a bog–and it is important to know that, for Heaney, bogs are significant as a symbol and sort of national myth of Ireland, not unlike how the prairie functions in the US. So, when he says, “I grew out of all of this,” he refers to the bog and the meanings he has carefully attached to it throughout the poem.
Or, to broaden the context a little, he refers to a landscape that represents home. I love the image he uses of a weeping willow, a tree that grows upward and yet reaches downward at the same time. That connection to the “mother” ground, so to speak, is something that comes up again and again in Heaney’s poetry, but perhaps never so powerfully as here in these lines. And I think that what I love most about these lines is that I feel like they nestle into my own context and express how I feel about home. I could write about red clay and flat land and prairie grasses and wildflowers and say that I grew out of all of this. Or I could talk about Abilene’s little traditions and little places, about my church family and friends, about Buffalo Gap and Betty’s Horse Patch and say that I grew out of all of this.
And especially now, as I am beginning to prepare myself mentally to leave my hometown for the first time, I am becoming sentimental (or more so than usual, which is always how I deal with change). I have begun to catalog the things and people I will miss, and as the list grows, I find myself whispering, “I grew out of all of this / Like a weeping willow / Inclined to / the appetites of gravity.”