Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

With a Whitmanesque receptivity to experience, Kinnell transmits his wonder and delight in nature’s creative power, and his own, in “Blackberry Eating.” The speaker, frank about his love of nature, provides an idealized picture of rural life by describing a fall morning’s experience that he implies he has repeated many times. The experience is not an end in itself, however, but acts as a sounding board for a more personal phenomenon: the eruption of words into his consciousness to be manipulated into their most effective mode.

“Blackberry Eating” concerns the origin of creative power, a playful presentation of the creative process as evidence of what Andrew Taylor has called the positive aspect of darkness that appears throughout Kinnell’s work. This positive aspect, writes Taylor, “is the nonself, the unconscious, the preconscious, the unpredictable source of vitality, the Mystery.”

Kinnell’s mysterious “source of vitality” here touches the speaker in the form of inspiration, in compact words that bring with them a fullness of experience that awakens the speaker’s senses to a mysterious void that lies just beyond the knowable. The void, however, does not loom in its “silent, startled, icy” blackness as a pit of destruction, but becomes, through its dramatic association with the extreme sensory pleasures of blackberry eating in the wild, a communicator of a life-affirming bias in the inexplicable design of the...

(The entire section is 441 words.)