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Seamus Heaney

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Added by: Sylvia
We did this poem in school too, except we had a different view on it. Bluebeard was /not/ a pirate, but he gave each wife a string of keys with one key she is forbidden to use. Since they all use the key, he finds out and kills them. It is like the children picking berries: They know the berries will rot, just like Bluebeard knows his wife's curiosity will get the better of her.
Added by: sarah
Thankyou for mentioning the summer romance idea. I think this poem is just one extended sexual metaphor. The blackberries reprsent pure women and after a while they "turn sour." Heaney is always left unsatisfied by the loss of innocense and purity in women. Many of Heaneys poems contain sexual metaphors, so this poem is no suprise.
Added by: wedel
I am not sure if any of you really understand this poem. This poem is an allegory for life. One goes through life "Black berry picking" and while there are hard times and good times, in the end you die. However, impending death does not affect the life that one had. This that is why he still did it every summer picked the blackberrys, knowing the would not keep. Life does not last forever, Cherish it!
The meaning????
Added by: PresidentPoetry
To me this poem seems to be more of a description of how things never live upto expectations. The first part of the poem shows a child's excitement of the prospect of picking the berries, and his enthusiasm when carrying it out. But the second half clearly shows an unfortunate downward sprial for the child as everything seems to go wrong. Also the inclusion of Bluebeard is a clear sign of sadness.
One angle is that it's lust
Added by: cp

In August, the blackberries ripen. The lust for the berries begins when “you ate that first one and its flesh was sweet.” The imagery of the berry is that it is full and ripe, unlike the green, hard ones. The juice is “like thickened wine,” and the evidence of this tasting, the “stains upon the tongue,” leave a “lust for picking.” The imagery of wine, something which one craves, extends into the deeper meaning of lust. The pickers, in their lust for the sweet berries, gather up anything can to pick the berries with.

The image that “big dark blobs burned like a plate of eyes” at the pickers personifies the berries, and thus makes the next lines very poignant. The pickers’ hands are “sticky as Bluebeard’s,” a character in fairy-tales who murders his wives. Through imagery, the pickers are now cast in the same light as the murderer. Even in line six, the narrator points out that “summer’s blood” was in the picking. The imagery of this blood extends to the berries’ juices and the pickers injuries from thorns.

Each year, the pickers hoard all the berries from the vine. By satiating their lust for the fruit, they ultimately kill the berries. A “rat-grey fungus glutted on our cache,” the narrator laments. The image of “rat-grey fungus’ conjures a sinister feel to the death of the berries in its rodent imagery. Just as the pickers lustfully glutted the vines, so the fungus gluts the store of berries.

The poem ends with the narrator stating that even though he knows the berries will rot each year, he can’t stop hoarding them. This is the same as the effect lust has on someone-they cannot stop feeding it even though they know their “reward” will spoil in the end. The imagery used in the description of the berries-“wine,” “glossy purple clot,” and “flesh was sweet” serves to display the draw of the berries, and establish a cause for lust. Then the imagery of “palms sticky as Bluebeard’s” show the crime in satiating lust. Lastly, the images of the rotted berries and “rat-grey fungus” show the consequence of lust.
Sexual references
Added by: Ann
This entire poem is about sex and the loss of innocence. The berries are a representation of no matter how hard we try to hold on to our childish innocence, we all inevitably loose it. It can't be helped
Added by: caitlin
i am reading this poem for my AP literature class and saw also saw it to be about a summer romance, do others agree on this interpretation?
Too many berries
Added by: Donna
He picked too many berries...cans and cans of them...even though he knew that they would never be eaten. And so they rotted. To me, the poem is about excess...the lust for life to the point of excess, and eventually wasting our lives -- we had so much of it that we neglected it, thinking that life would always be there, and eventually discovering that our lives had turned into a rotten sour mess. lol I am depressed now -- will drink some blackberry wine because I had a freezer and some Fruit Fresh, and I saved all my berries. hee hee
Added by: ROCKI
well we also read the poem for an on-demand essay in my ap literature class.
Some students thought it was about relationships in general and how people long for these loving relationships but they never turn out the way you want put eben though you know this you continue to persue it.
some people thought it was about life in general. overall we agreed the theme was disappointment. each year he describes how he went back in the fields to pick these berries at all cost (pots, pans, etc.)despite the fact that he knew they were only going to rot. no matter when he picked them or how many he picked the same result happened. people do this in life and relationships. cinderalla went to the ball even though she knew her carriage would turn back into a pumpkin. i think the big question here is whether or not that moment of satisfication is worth the inevitable disappointment
blackberry picking
Added by: laura
i have been studying this poem for a year now and i am from ireland. i am not happy about the comments made on the violence of the poem being blamed on the place were heaney was brought up. i can see how everyone is reading between the lines and comming up with some very good points on his use of imagery and language, but has anyone took into consideration the more obvious points in the poem. heaney is obviously refering back to his childhood and how he would let his hopes build up and get disappointed and though he knew he was going to be let down he would still let his hopes build up as any child would. heaneys use of imagery is not to show any kind of romance or hatred but to simply set the scene for the reader, heaney has had some happy but also some sorrowful memories of his child hood and his simply trying to share them through his use of imagery and language.

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