Galway Kinnell’s Blackberry Eating Essay
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Written in 1980, Galway Kinnell’s Blackberry Eating is a poem which creates a strong metaphoric relationship between the tangible objects of blackberries, and the intangible objects of words. The speaker of the poem feels a strong attraction to the sensory characteristics (the touch, taste, and look) of blackberries. The attraction he feels at the beginning of the poem exclusively for blackberries is paralleled in the end by his appetite and attraction to words.
The rush the speaker gets out of blackberry eating is paralleled to the enjoyment he finds in thinking about certain words; words which call up the same sensory images the blackberries embody.
Throughout the fourteen lines of the poem, the imagery of the blackberries, as well as the speaker’s ardor for them is explored. In the final lines of the poem, the speaker reveals the connection between the imagery of the blackberries and the imagery that is created by words. The blackberries become the existing tangible reality of the way the speaker views words.
The author savors the taste of the blackberries in his mouth in much the same way as he savors the sound of certain words on his tongue. In the first line of the poem the speaker states his fondness for going out to eat blackberries. “I love to go out in late September… ” This line makes it clear that the speaker goes out voluntarily because of his desire to eat the blackberries. In the next line, the speaker describes the blackberries in vivid imagery. “among the fat, overripe, icy, black blackberries.
This description of the blackberries does not leave the reader to wonder about how the blackberries look or taste. The reason the author is giving the reader such a vivid sensory image of the blackberries is to show the powerful images that words can produce. The third line states the speaker’s purpose. He is going out “to eat the blackberries for breakfast. ” This line shows that the speaker not only has an attraction to the berries aesthetic qualities but also craves them to satiate his appetite.
The speaker’s appetite for the berries is later paralleled to his appetite for words. In the next line, the speaker describes the stalks of the blackberry bushes as “very prickly. ” This is the first negative image used in association with the blackberries. All the previous images have been positive characteristics of blackberries- fat, overripe, icy, and black. Perhaps, this negative image of the prickly stalks is being used to show that along with pleasure invariably comes pain in the natural world.
This same idea used in the context of the words suggests the two-fold potential of words to both benefit and harm. In the next line, the prickly stalks are attributed as a penalty that “they [blackberry bushes] earn for knowing the black art. ” This imagery of the flowering of the bushes being a black art lends a magical, bewitching quality to the blackberries, an idea that there is something wickedly tempting about the berries. In connecting this idea to the “word” metaphor, it shows that the ability to tempt and persuade with words can also be a form of black art.
In the next line, the speaker talks about standing among the blackberries and lifting the stalks to his mouth where “the ripest berries fall almost unbidden to my tongue. ” The words “fall” and “unbidden” are used in this line to show that the berries come easily, almost voluntarily into the speaker’s mouth. It creates the idea of a mutual attraction between the speaker and the berries. The speaker goes out to seek the blackberries but once he finds them they “fall unbidden” into his mouth. The speaker then switches gears in the next line by finishing the thought with “as words sometimes do, certain peculiar words.
” Here, the speaker is shifting the subject of the poem from blackberries to words without losing the parallel he has created between the two seemingly otherwise unrelated items. In fact, he is only tying the parallels between the two even tighter; because the mutual attraction between the speaker and the berries can also be seen in the speaker’s relationship with words. This can be seen in the next two lines, when the speaker describes certain words “like strengths or squinched” as “many lettered, one-syllabled lumps…
” The words themselves mirror the blackberries. They are many lettered whereas the blackberries are many beaded, and they are one- syllabled whereas the blackberries are bite-sized and can be swallowed in one gulp. The writer treats both words and the blackberries in the same way. He takes the “many-lettered, one-syllabled lumps which I squeeze, squinch open, and splurge well. ” The speaker’s enjoyment of words, much like his enjoyment of the blackberries, is sensuous. He is devouring the words with pleasure and savoring the taste in his mouth.
In the next line, “in the silent, startled, icy, black language” the speaker is describing the “peculiar words” in the same way he described the blackberries in the beginning of the poem. The blackberries are also described as “icy” and “black. ” Here the speaker is strengthening the metaphor he has created between the two objects. This allusion is further strengthened in the last line of the poem when the writer says “of blackberry eating in late September. ” The ending of the poem now echoes the beginning.
The poem has come full-circle and the correlation between the sensory experience of blackberry eating and the auditory pleasure of words has been made. Blackberry Eating is metaphorical poem about the similarities between the pleasurable experience of picking and eating tasty blackberries and the auditory enjoyment of hearing the sound of certain words. Both the blackberries and the “words” provide a pleasurable sensory experience that the speaker collapses together and relates to in the same manner. Blackberry eating becomes a tangible experience that is used to depict the way the speaker intuitively reacts to certain words.