"Blackberry Picking" by Seamus Heaney

“Blackberry Picking” by Seamus Heaney

Through the innocent act of blackberry picking, Seamus Heaney tells of an experience that creates a deeper understanding. Throughout his poem, Blackberry Picking, Heaney manipulates language to not only convey a literal description, but also bring about philosophical thought. Hidden within allusions, similies, rhymes, and personification, his complex ideas emerge.

Opening the poem with strong imagery, Heaney describes a scene in late August. Using colors, he identifies and describes the ripening blackberries and uses a rhyme to compare the first one, “a glossy purple clot” (Line 3) to its later siblings, “red, green, hard as a knot.” (Line 4) This rhyming imagery also contains a simile that allows the reader to better understand his meanings. His use of simile continues when he uses second person to involve the reader in tasting the sweetness of the berry “like the thickened wine.” (Line 6) This involvement greatly enhances the reader’s comprehension and includes him in the poem, allowing him to experience the events himself. This creates a greater connection between the reader and the poem and makes Heaney’s imagery more lively.

When describing nature, Heaney then personifies summer, allowing it to bleed the sweet blackberry juice into the reader’s mouth demonstrating the importance of the berries and their strong ties with summer. Heaney even involves himself in the poem, introducing his own thoughts and ideas and sharing the experience with the reader. From his firsthand involvement, Heaney can create another simile expressing the top big dark blobs burning “like a plate of eyes.” (Line 15)

With a final allusion, Heaney ends his first stanza, ending the cheerful and innocent act of picking blackberries with an ironic connection. With “palms sticky as Bluebeard’s” Heaney alludes that his hands are covered in summer’s blood as the fairy tale character’s hands were covered with his wife’s blood. This pessimistic line foreshadows the following stanza.

Greeted with striking juice and fermented fruit, Heaney finds an unfortunate ending to his innocent act. Ending his poem with a rhyme, Heaney helps emphasize his poem’s deeper meaning. “The lovely canfuls smelt of rot. Each year I hoped they’d keep, knew they would not.” (Lines 23-24)

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