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1 Andre Fontana Mrs.

Robinson AP Literature 12 22 February 2011 Analysis of Seamus Heaneys Blackberry-Picking In his poem Blackberry-Picking, Seamus Heaney explores the carnal and primal actions of our selfish impulses. Though the poem is literally speaking about blackberry picking, through his use of diction, imagery, and form, Heaney is able to create a deeper sense and understanding of the experience as a whole. Heaneys use of diction (which also yields to imagery as well) is a strong indicator of his tone, all of which contributes immensely to his overall experience. His use of its flesh was sweet (line 5), summers blood (line 6), lust (line 7), and rat-grey fungus (line 19) provokes strong connotative meaning, juxtaposing the idea of blackberry picking with unremorseful savagery. Through these factors, we are able to infer that the speaker of the poem became intensely (if not barbarically) intoxicated with the taste of the blackberries. The speaker is caught in a blackberry-picking frenzy after savoring the rich, first blackberry nectar. The actual words the author uses to describe the blackberries also supports the barbaric craving the speaker has. The first stanza also exhibits intricate use of agriculture-specific jargon (lines 9-15). This means that the speaker is not only fluent in the job of blackberry

2 picking, but also used to the act. In support of the diction and descriptive adjectives used, allusions to the French folktale Bluebeard by Charles Perrault (line 16) affirm the notion that the speaker is in a barbaric spree, selfishly picking all the blackberries without remorse simply to satisfy his carnal impulses. In fact, the speaker is completely lost in the trance, picking blackberries that werent even ripe yet (evident in lines 13-14). Coupled with that, and the speakers indifference to the fact that his hands were peppered with thorn pricks (lines 15-16), the speaker was completely caught in a delusional state of selfishness while going about the mundane activity of blackberry picking. Coupled with the contrast in diction (between each stanza), the poems two-stanza form can be compared to a psychological impulsive rush to take as much as possible to satisfy, and then the sudden and abrupt snap out of the trance, daze, or rush. The first stanza is saturated with heavy, detailed descriptions of the act. The speaker recounts every detail of the event, being concise and stout, yet descriptive. Being saturated with such descriptions, this simulates a sort of euphoric rush of the pickings, recounting only the outstanding moments of, as the whole act itself was probably a blur a frenzy of emotions to the speaker. However, the break in between the stanzas signifies plenty. It represents the speaker coming back down to a more sane level, snapping out of the induced trance he went through while

3 picking, and it also indicates the full realization to what he had done. In the second stanza, the speaker sounds much more sane, down to earth, and lamenting on the act of the pickings. Looking back in retrospect, the speaker regrets the picking heavily, feeling guilty for taking too much to satisfy his carnal, selfish needs. This contributes immensely to the whole experience, as we are able to relate to such a snap from an elevated feeling back down to reality, realizing the full extent of our actions in retrospect. Heaney uses a variety of elements to heighten the whole experience in his poem Blackberry-Picking from a literal picking of blackberries to a greater experience. Diction, imagery, and form contribute heavily to this goal, helping to establish a sense of brutal, savage impulsive want (indifferent to anything else not pertaining to the urge to reap the berries) descending down into the realization of the actions one took to satisfy the urge, portraying humans as we really are: selfish, instinctive, and egotistical when we are in the presence of items we lust for.

Works Cited Heaney, Seamus. Blackberry-Picking. Selected Poems 1966-1987. Seamus Heaney. 1990.