Themes

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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 346

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In “Blackberry Eating” by Galway Kinnell, the speaker of the poem describes the sensual experience of picking ripened blackberries from a bush and eating them.

At first glance, the poem seems to deal with the thematic idea of pleasure. The way in which the speaker describes the feel and taste of the blackberries conveys his delight. He asserts the idea that simple pleasures in life are supremely satisfying, such as high September ritual.

However, upon closer examination of Kinnell’s diction, the reader can see that the speaker associates the blackberries with words. The speaker compares the overripe berries that fall easily into his mouth with “many-lettered, one-syllabled lumps” of words, such as “strengths.” Thus, the blackberries represent the physical manifestation of difficult-to-pronounce yet sonically rich words. The speaker, who one might associate with the poet himself, finds pleasure in both eating the ripened berries and saying these “lump” words, which he comes to associate with each other.

The Satisfaction of Words

If one were to discuss a thematic statement regarding this association, one might discuss the way in which words can be just as satisfying and pleasurable as delicious fruit. In fact, the speaker echoes this message in line 12 when he says he likes to “squeeze,” “squinch,” and “splurge” the blackberries. The alliterative quality of this line mirrors the “lumps” from line 10, suggesting that the blackberries almost become words as he eats them. A poet’s sustenance is language itself and the ways it can be manipulated to his delight.

Connection With Nature

When the speaker describes the “black language” of nature, he is expressing the relationship between himself and the mysterious creative power of nature itself; just as the bushes make the berries, the poet writes his poems. This introduces another possible thematic idea, that of art. The poet delights in his ability to use the mysterious power of words to create art and affect the reader. Nature’s art is the multitude of beautiful or pleasurable things it produces, while man’s art is his ability to use nature for his own benefit.

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