by Seamus Heaney

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How does Seamus Heaney use imagery in "Blackberry-Picking"?

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In "Blackberry-Picking," Seamus Heaney includes all sensory imagery but emphasizes vision, touch, and taste. The poem’s speaker reveals how the senses combine as people gather and eat the berries. Heaney employs other literary devices such as similes to create the sensory impressions.

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Imagery involves references in a text to any or all of the five senses to create a memorable impression. In his poem “Blackberry-Picking,” Seamus Heaney uses imagery extensively. The speaker presents people, especially children, involved in picking berries. While all the senses are referenced, the poem emphasizes the...

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visual, tactile, and gustatory aspects of berry-picking. The colors and textures of the growing berries are presented as indications of the state of ripeness. Once the berries are deemed ripe, the effect on the pickers is shown through reference to the taste in their mouths. Heaney combines imagery with other literary devices such as similes, which in turn evoke bodily and sensory elements.

Unripe berries are described as “red, green, hard as a knot.” The newly ripened “glossy purple” berry is described using a simile as tasting “sweet / Like thickened wine.” A simile is a comparison of unlike things for effect using “like” or “as.” The speaker then uses a metaphor and personification, saying that “summer’s blood” was in that first berry. A metaphor is a direct comparison of unlike things for effect, and personification is the attribution of human qualities to nonhuman things, animals, or abstract concepts.

The description that follows includes tactile dimensions, such as the briars scratching the pickers whose “hands were peppered / With thorn pricks.” Using another simile that evokes the sense of vision, the speaker says that in the top of the container, “big dark blobs burned / Like a plate of eyes.”

The only auditory impression refers to the sound of the berries hitting the “tinkling bottom” of the can. The sense of smell is used only in a negative sense for describing the odor of the rotten berries.

The juice was stinking too. …

all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.

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