The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Blackberry Eating” is a short poem in free verse, its fourteen lines (in one stanza) all parts of one compound-complex sentence. One-sentence poems are not uncommon for Galway Kinnell. The title plunges into the immediacy of the context of the poem by focusing on an action as subject. The poem is written in the first person. There is no indication that the speaker’s persona is someone other than the poet, so the poem fits into the classic tradition of lyric poetry wherein the poet directly informs the reader about a personal experience.

A subject that is clearly in the realm of the ordinary is the starting point of “Blackberry Eating.” Kinnell introduces the activity of picking blackberries by grounding the experience in a particular mood, love, and a particular season, autumn. Autumn suggests the time of harvest, when the prospect of impending death weighs heavily on the mind. No drape of melancholy is allowed here, though; the enthusiasm of love keeps it pushed aside.

A descriptive series of words, a vibrant picture of blackberries begging to be picked, helps the reader see, smell, and feel the clusters of fruit. A blending of wilderness and civilization follows when the speaker links his exploration of nature with humankind’s regularity and demands: The blackberries are for breakfast.

When Kinnell draws attention to the prickly stalks, he focuses on the significance of small details and comments on the mystical...

(The entire section is 557 words.)