Sunday, September 2, 2012
I love to go out in late September
among the fat, overripe, icy, black blackberries
to eat blackberries for breakfast,
the stalks very prickly, a penalty
they earn for knowing the black art
of blackberry-making; and as I stand among them
lifting the stalks to my mouth, the ripest berries
fall almost unbidden to my tongue,
as words sometimes do, certain peculiar words
like strengths or squinched,
many-lettered, one-syllabled lumps,
which I squeeze, squinch open, and splurge well
in the silent, startled, icy, black language
of blackberry eating in late September.
Note: I first read this poem in September when I was teaching my first high school English class. Blackberries were hanging ripe on the wild vines in the mountains near my home where my family would fall on them during our hikes. I brought blackberries to class and we ate them and read the poem and made a list of sensory details that could become part of our own writing about blackberries -- and language.
Interestingly, I found three different versions of this poem on common poetry sites, and they all handled the last line slightly differently. I found "blackberry -- eating in late September," "blackberry-eating", and "blackberry eating." I don't know which is correct, but the dash didn't seem right. I opted for the version that treated the phrase in the same way as the poem's title. But it was an interesting little foray into the importance of editing.
I found a few links to other Galway Kinnell poems that I liked as well, most notably "When one has lived a long time alone" and "Oatmeal." He's a fabulous poet and I enjoy his work whenever I come across it.