(poem of the day) Blackberry Picking by Seamus Heaney

Blackberry Picking

Seamus Heaney

Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer’s blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots
Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills
We trekked and picked until the cans were full
Until the tinkling bottom had been covered
With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
Like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard’s.
We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn’t fair
That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they’d keep, knew they would not.


Picture of the Irish poet and Nobel Prize winn...

Picture of the Irish poet and Nobel Prize winner Seamus Heaney at the University College Dublin, February 11, 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


10 thoughts on “(poem of the day) Blackberry Picking by Seamus Heaney

  1. Matt Heckler says:

    Heaney is one poet I have read collections by and didn’t like it at all. Part of me thinks I decided ahead of time that I wouldn’t like it becaues I despise the person who recommended it, but.. eh. I don’t know, the language is fine, but there’s something uninspiring to me about books full of stuff about growing up on a farm and killing cats.

  2. zerode says:

    Reblogged this on zerode – a sensibility and commented:
    I would counter / expand with…

    Picking Blackberries with a Friend Who Has Been Reading Jacques Lacan

    August is dust here. Drought
    stuns the road,
    but juice gathers in the berries.

    We pick them in the hot
    slow-motion of midmorning.
    Charlie is exclaiming:

    for him it is twenty years ago
    and raspberries and Vermont.
    We have stopped talking

    about L’Histoire de la vérité,
    about subject and object
    and the mediation of desire.

    Our ears are stoppered
    in the bee-hum. And Charlie,
    laughing wonderfully,

    beard stained purple
    by the word juice,
    goes to get a bigger pot.

  3. I love the sensuousness of this poem, evoking both pleasure in the ripe, fresh fruit, and disgust in the rot and ferment. Heaney is a poet still in touch with feeling and sensuality, while always engaging the mind.

  4. yeltnuh says:


  5. […] on her blog, turbidus has posted a (poem of the day) Blackberry Picking by Seamus Heaney, including a great video of Heaney reading […]

  6. Judith Post says:

    I just love the poems you choose. This one felt homey, heartfelt.

  7. yeltnuh says:

    You honor me, indeed. Here I am, blithely meandering amongst all thes words (poetry is always and already sensual for me), and I find myself amongst a few who understand. This is like fireworks for the soul!

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