Tuesday, August 3, 2010

August 3: Blackberries and Poems

Hiking up Beech Hill in Rockport I noticed that the blackberries growing along the trail were red and ripening fast. I was reminded of one of my ongoing, slow-growing collections: blackberry poems. Over the years, I've accumulated my own personal anthology of poems that include blackberries as the subject or key image. The poets include Sylvia Plath, Robert Hass, Seamus Heaney, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Yusef Komunyakaa, Mary Oliver and, inspired by aforementioned, myself. (I'll include a complete list below.)

There's something about blackberries that render them good subjects for poetry. Back in my grad school days, I probably would have tried to write an essay on the topic, describing how the staining black juice of the berries is irresistibly similar to ink, how the ephemeral ripeness of the fruit is the perfect metaphor for the fleeting joys of summer or life or a relationship. Or how plucking the delicious berries from amid the thorny bushes is the perfect metaphor for life or a relationship. You get the idea. Blackberries are quite literally food for (poetic) thought.

But these days, inspired by the discovery of a new blackberry poem or the sight of a real live blackberry patch, I simply re-read my collection, picking through the poems with pleasure, as if eating berries from a basket.
Photo by Brian Willson
Blackberries don't last.
But their purple ink lingers
in printed poems.

Blackberry Poem Anthology
Elizabeth Barrett Browning, section of "Aurora Leigh"
Robert Hass, "Meditation at Lagunitas"
Seamus Heaney, "Blackberry-Picking"
Jane Hirschfield, "August Day"
Elizabeth Hobbs, "Blackberry Picking"
Galway Kinnell, "Blackberry Eating"
Yusef Komunyakaa, "Blackberries"
Mary Oliver, "August" and "Blackberries"
Sylvia Plath, "Blackberrying"
Henry Taylor, "Blackberries," section from "Three Snapshots"
Jack Turner, "The Plan"
Allison Childs Wells, "In the Blackberry Patch"
Douglas Woodsum, "A Country Awakening," "Poem for Stephen," "Mental Health Diet," "Blackberry War," "Fourteener #301," "Fourteener #37," "Fourteener #28," and "The Black Way" (a poet friend who clearly shares my enthusiasm for the poetic potential of blackberries!)

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