Blackberry Eating

by Galway Kinnell

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Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 434

Galway Kinnell’s “Blackberry Eating” elaborates on the surety of natural aesthetics and sensibility. One almost gets the sense that they are reading a poem by Robert Frost or Henry David Thoreau as they picture the scene of blackberry eating in late September that Kinnell paints. Thus, some of the most important quotations one might take from this poem come from the arcadian imagery used to bring the scene to life.

For example, the second line of the poem reads “among the fat, overripe, icy, black blackberries” when describing the speaker’s morning blackberry-eating routine. Each of the adjectives that Kinnell uses to describe the blackberries serves a unique semiotic function in order to connect together the lives of the blackberries, the person who picks them, and those who might read of the experience. The blackberries are “fat,” signifying sumptuousness and leisure. Just like the narrator, the blackberries have had time to ripen, mature, and enjoy the splendors of life to a high level of satisfaction. Such an interpretation also characterizes the use of the adjective “overripe” to describe the blackberries, as their degree of ripeness again correlates to their maturity and longevity.

When we consider that the narrator is picking the blackberries in late September, a month (and time of that month) close to the end of the year, the age of the blackberries is again evoked as a correlation to their progression through the season of cultivation. They are “icy,” which might imply something of the September temperature but might also suggest that the blackberries have been made cool and fresh by their time in the autumn breeze and are thus ready to be picked just as the narrator is going to pick them.

Finally, we might consider why Kinnell decides to use the word “black” to describe the blackberries. Is not their color implied in their very name? Again, this decision may simply come from Kinnell’s desire to reinforce the sensory experience of the narrator as he moves about the blackberry patch. Imagery and physical description of the environment is a central aspect of Kinnell’s work, and the more precise the level of description, the more likely it is to convey the beauties of the natural world.

The poem is saturated with other such examples of imagery: “prickly” blackberry stalks, blackberries which are “squeezed” and “splurged,” a “silent, startled, icy, black language” that the speaker associates with the season, and so on. These words are used to bring the scenery to life and to connect the reader as closely as possible with the natural bounty of the blackberry patch.

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