Yusef Komunyakaa Questions and Answers

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How does the poem "Blackberries," by Yusef Komunyakaa, explore an important social issue and/or aspect of life?

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The poem “Blackberries,” by Yusef Komunyakaa, deals with a number important social issues and life experiences.  Two of the most significant of these are work as well as economic and social status.

The young, ten-year-old boy in the poem who picks blackberries not only eats them but sells them.  He eats as he picks, but at the end of his hard work he has two cans filled with blackberries which he can sell to strangers who pass along a road in cars.

As the poem opens, the speaker compares his blackberry-stained hands to the hands of a printer or a thief, stained with ink. It soon becomes clear, however, that the picker is young, so that these images of adulthood are, at this point, merely fanciful comparisons. He is not yet old enough to have a real job (like a printer) or to steal money (like a thief). He has not yet entered the period of his life when earning or stealing money is crucial to his survival or existence.

For this reason, he can pick the berries in a fairly leisurely...

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