Blackberry Eating Poem by Galway Kinnell Summary, Notes and Line by Line Explanation in English for Students


“Blackberry Eating” is a poem written by Galway Kinnell. This poem first appeared in the poetry collection named “Mortal Acts, Mortal Words” in 1980. The poem talks about the simple act of eating a ripe blackberry fruit in the autumn. The poet talks about going for a walk and finding and savoring ripe fruits like blackberries. The poem exudes the ideal of appreciating the small things in life. It teaches us to be present in the moment, however little it may be, and learn to look at the essence of life itself. Walking around in an open field early in an autumn morning is an image that is pregnant with peace.

About the poet

Galway Mills Kinnell was born in 1927 in the United States. He is an American poet. He won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1982 for his work. He was also the Poet Laureate for Vermont from 1989 to 1993. He has written many poems and published collections. Some of his notable works are “St. Francis and the Sow” and “After Making Love We Hear Footsteps”.


The poem is written in one stanza. It consists of 14 lines. Though the poem is made up of 14 lines, it is not a sonnet as it does not follow the rhyme scheme.

Lines 1-8

I love to go out in late September

among the fat, overripe, icy, black blackberries

to eat blackberries for breakfast,

the stalks very prickly, a penalty

they earn for knowing the black art

of blackberry-making; and as I stand among them

lifting the stalks to my mouth, the ripest berries

fall almost unbidden to my tongue,


The poem begins with the speaker talking about how he likes to take a walk in the month of September. While on the walk, the speaker finds ripe blackberries and decides to eat them for breakfast. He describes the experience by talking about how the stalks of the blackberries have small pricks over them.

This the speaker says is a penalty that the plant has to pay for being able to make such delicious fruit.  The speaker plucks these blackberries and brings them closer to her mouth to eat them. Because the berries are overripe, they fall almost by themselves straight into the speaker’s mouth.


The poet talks about the speaker’s experience of eating a blackberry. It is not a usual experience. The speaker takes time to walk in the meadow of the blackberry stalks. He touches the ripe fruit and feels their fatness and then decides to eat them for his breakfast. He goes to pluck them and remarks how the stalks of the plant are prickly. For this he says that it is a punishment to the plant for knowing how to create the “black art”.

The black art is the art of creating blackberries. The speaker takes the stalk and brings it closer to his face and the ripe fruit falls “unbidden” into his mouth. He might not have planned to eat the fruit yet but the berry falls by itself into the mouth of the speaker.

Lines 9-14

as words sometimes do, certain peculiar words

like strengths or squinched,

many-lettered, one-syllabled lumps,

which I squeeze, squinch open, and splurge well

in the silent, startled, icy, black language

of blackberry-eating in late September.


The speaker says that the blackberries fall into his mouth the same way some words do. He gives the example of two words “strength” and “squinched”. These words are consonant clusters. They have numerous consonants clustered around a vowel. The same way, many blackberries are clustered around a stalk. The speaker goes back to eating the berries. He bites them and chews them up in his mouth and tastes the juiciness of the fruit. He calls this experience the “black language of black-berry eating”.


The poet here makes a comparison between the blackberries and language. He compares the fruits on the stalks to words like “strength” and “squinched”. These words are clustered with consonants around one and two vowels. The same way the blackberries are clustered around stalks.

After making the analogy he goes back to experiencing the fruit. He bites the blackberries between his teeth and squeezes the juice out of them. He bites them open and spa,urges on their taste. He is surprised by the taste and the chillies in his mouth. He calls this experience a “black language”.