Late August: Blackberry Thoughts

Photo Credit: @AlfieDies on Twitter, June 16, 2020

Earlier this year, I read the lovely volume The Point of Poetry by Joe Nutt. I had read a few of the poems in that book before, but not many. Seamus Heaney’s “Blackberry-Picking” was a new one for me.

The first few lines:

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.

These lines summon a memory of camp. I grew up in sterile Southern California suburbs but went to summer camp in Connecticut “wilds.” Summer brought thunderstorms and mud and glossy purple clots of blackberries. The rebellion of blackberry picking felt like freedom.

As Heaney writes, blackberries don’t ripen until the end of the summer. There was joy in finding them ripe after a long wait. But ripe berries also meant that the freedom of camp was coming to an end, and the routine of the school year was upon us. Heaney’s poem includes that double edge, ending with a lament about time and his crop:

Each year I hoped they’d keep, knew they would not.

It’s late August. I have no brambles in my yard, just grass and fruitless vines. But we have students back in Boulder, marking the passage from one season to the next.

I hope they keep.

5 Comment

  1. Paula says: Reply

    Beautifully written. Thank you.

    1. laurakornish says: Reply


  2. Jim Kornish II says: Reply

    I hope they keep, too.

  3. Jennifer Metz says: Reply

    You are a beautiful writer. I’d like to share w my mom, is that cool?
    I also love the photo. I didn’t realize the berry was a flower first, I didn’t pay attention.
    We had a large patch of blackberries in our yard in concord MA. It was the “ball eating” bramble patch, but we collected nice berries as well. I basically was not a fan of the patch, I have to admit. Do you love the taste of blackberries? We made pancakes. Thank you for this! Xo Jen

    1. laurakornish says: Reply

      Thanks, Jen! Yes, please share.

      I love that photo, too. It caught my eye because I had been thinking about the poem.

      Do I love the taste of blackberries? The plump sweet ones that are all flesh and no prickles, yes. But those are rare.

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