Talking airports on RTÉ Arena this week
Have a listen here or read on…


airplane4Before the beard and mortgage, and inexplicable mistrust of modern music, in much the same way as normal people, I too was a child. It being the eighties, a time of homemade Evil Kneival ramps and power gats, pastimes for most kids could pretty much be summed up as a series of creative attempts to mortally wound themselves. While most parents steered youngsters toward sport or artistic endeavours, my father liked to bring us on daytrips to Dublin Airport. There was no end of planes to be looked at, the odd seasonal decoration, even an assortment of massive foreign flags. It was indeed a much simpler time.


It’s true to say, there is more on offer for the modern airport wayfarer.  Many airports have transformed public spaces into art installations or exhibitions. In Dublin, painted trees sprawl walls of departure areas, deer watching from the shadows, foliage framing the words of Irish writers. W.B. Yeats, Katherine Tynan, James Joyce. But Dublin isn’t alone. Heathrow is home to a three dimensional neon taxi and has its own permanent art gallery, while Philadelphia airport houses volcanic landscapes. In Sacramento, a flock of cranes escape the baggage area. There are swarming ants in Atlanta and a giant weathervane-esque contraption in Helsinki. Amsterdam accommodates a rotating glass pavilion, displaying work from famous Dutch painters.

Airports have transformed massively over the years. Without doubt, the majority of the change in Dublin has been witnessed from the mounds that span a good half-mile beyond the fencing on the southern end of the runway. This is the home of the Airplane Spotter, gathered in bunches, watching the rhythm of the traffic, imagining themselves at the helm of each craft. But surely the sport is more than tracking flight numbers. I imagine these Spotters read ambition in the progress of engines, beauty in the sleek design. They must taste endless possibility in each take-off, a sense of assurance in each successful landing, Or perhaps, like, Ted Kooser and his piece Flying at Night, it is poetry they seek in the idea of flight…


Above us, stars. Beneath us, constellations.

Five billion miles away, a galaxy dies

like a snowflake falling on water. Below us,

some farmer, feeling the chill of that distant death,

snaps on his yard light, drawing his sheds and barn

back into the little system of his care.

All night, the cities, like shimmering novas,

tug with bright streets at lonely lights like his.


by Ted Kooser
Published in “Flying at Night”