Galway Kinnell’s “Blackberry Eating” is a single-stanza poem consisting of fourteen lines, which is written in free verse. The poem is about the personal experience of the speaker with regards to picking and eating of black berries. On the other hand, Sylvia Plath’s “Blackberrying” is a 27-line poem talking about the speaker’s expedition and experience in picking blackberries. This paper compares and contrasts these two poems.
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It is important to mention that there is blackberry picking both poems, and the authors are the only human characters in the poems. In addition, both poems are written from the first person perspective. This is evidenced by the use of the word ‘‘I’’ within the poems. Examples from the texts include, ‘‘and as I stand among them lifting the stalks to my mouth’’ (Kinnell line 6-7) and, ‘‘I come to one bush of berries so ripe it is a bush of flies’’ (Plath line 15). First person is used to inform the reader of the poet’s personal experience regarding blackberry eating and picking.
The use of colorful and expressive language is evident in both poems. For instance, in “Blackberry Eating”, the author utilizes four adjectives in a row to express the sweetness and juiciness of the berries i.e. ‘‘fat, overripe, icy, black blackberries’’ (Kinnell line 2). To express his attraction towards the berries, and the way he enjoys feeling and touching them, he also uses words like ‘‘ripest’’, ‘‘love’’ and ‘‘splurge’’. Similarly, Plath mentions seven different colors throughout her poem to paint a picture in the reader’s mind of what she is talking about. Examples of the colors mentioned include black, pewter, green, orange, white, red-blue, and blue-green.
Another similarity between the two poems is the use of personification. In the first poem for instance, the author gives the berries a human character when he says, ‘‘a penalty they earn for knowing the black art of blackberry-making’’ (Kinnell 4-6). Likewise, Plath’s ‘‘Blackberrying’’ states, ‘‘these they squander on my fingers. I had not asked for such a blood sisterhood; they must love me’’ (Plath line 7-8). In these lines, the author likens the juices of the blackberries on her hands to the ritual amongst blood sisters. Such rituals usually involve people cutting themselves till they bleed then rubbing their wounds against each other so that their bloods can mix. The author gives the berries human characteristics by likening the juice in her hands to the blood sisters’ ritual; an implication that she and the blackberries share a common knowledge and understanding.
Despite the numerous similarities shared by the two poems, they also differ in a number of ways. For instance, “Blackberry Eating” consists of one stanza with fourteen lines, while “Blackberrying” consists of twenty seven lines divided in three stanzas (nine lines per stanza).
There is also variation in the poems’ settings. For instance, the setting of the first poem is within the blackberry bushes that are loaded with ripe berries. As evident in line two of the poem, the poet went to pick and eat the berries on a cold morning in the month of September. The second poem is however set on a deserted country road next to the sea, with only blackberry bushes present on both sides of the road, but more on its right side. This is evidenced in the initial two lines of the poem, ‘‘Nobody in the lane, and nothing, nothing but blackberries, Blackberries on either side, though on the right mainly’’ (Plath 1-2). In addition, the speaker of Poem 1 is a male, while that of Poem 2 is a female.
“Blackberry Eating” and “Blackberrying” are two great poems by Galway Kinnell and Sylvia Plath respectively. There are numerous similarities and differences between the two poems that have been discussed in this paper. For instance, in both poems, the poets are the only human characters, and they are written in the first person. However, while the first poem is set in the morning in a blackberry bush, the second one is set in an isolated road by the sea, with blackberry bushes on both sides of the road. These poems are a must read for literature lovers especially for their rich and expressive language.
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