Monday, September 1, 2014

Blackberry Picking - Seamus Heaney

When I went out walking earlier on, the blackberries were in abundance along the mountain hedgerows, despite it being early October.  I thought again, as I did last year about Seamus Heaney's poem, Blackberry Picking, and it seems like the perfect way to celebrate. I hope you enjoy it too.

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.


  1. I'm listening for a second time! this is one of my favourite of Seamus Heaney. but listening to him brings a lump to my throat...sounds so like my Armagh dad! and reminds me of all those august days at the caravan running wild like a lost child! thankyou for this treat today.

  2. One of my fae poems, I love the mp3, very cool!!

  3. His voice is amazing Gerry, and I love your expression - running wild like a lost child! So thank you.

    Thanks Michelle - Crazy the 1st of September already!

  4. What a great blog post and a great blog. My favorite Seamus poem is "Doubletake" from The Cure at Troy. You must know it. Going off to follow you on Twitter.

  5. Thanks Mary - my fav line from Doubletake, is - the longed for tidal wave of justice can rise up,and hope and history rhyme. :) Will find u on twitter too

  6. I read this recently for the first time, now here you are, serving up seconds! I always loved picking blackberries, but never liked eating them...This poem has all the sadness of the decaying year within its lines...

  7. Love this poem! Thank you for sharing it.

  8. And on a similar note, 'Blackberry Eating" by Galwey Kinnell. http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/blackberry-eating/

  9. Thanks Jinksy, ds and Deborah - will check that link:)


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