By Seamus Heaney 

Seamus Heaney Blackberries A Life of Rhyme - S Heaney Interview With S Heaney Other Poets Main Poetry Index


By Seamus Heaney

Meet Josie Seasonal/Weather

"Seamus Heaney published his earliest poems under the pseudonym “Incertus”, meaning “uncertain”. Perhaps his reticence was understandable. As every schoolchild now knows, Heaney grew up on a farm where what counted was your skill with a spade or a plough – not a pen. He also faced the dilemma of being a Catholic in Protestant-dominated Northern Ireland."


"He's Ireland's greatest living writer and its first Nobel prize-winning poet since Yeats."


" Seamus Heaney, Nobel laureate of 1995, whose rhymes are rough-hewn, hand-honed. Dungarees and rosaries? Whops and footsteps? Joys and tallboy? We're in Heaney country."


Read more about the life of this distinguished modern poet on these links:  

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.

You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet

Like thickened wine: summer's blood was in it

Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for

Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger

Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots

Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.

Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills

We trekked and picked until the cans were full

Until the tinkling bottom had been covered

With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned

Like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered

With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard's.

We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.

But when the bath was filled we found a fur,

A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.

The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush

The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.

I always felt like crying. It wasn't fair

That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.

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


Copyright acknowledged

To me, as a poet, this is poetry at its best.  I see that one skin beneath the surface, the poem speaks of hope and disappointment.  Life is never as we hope it will always be, and things have a habit of changing from what they were initially to what they can deteriorate to become.  Luckily today we have freezers and can keep fruit in tip top condition, but if we are to preserve anything worth having in life, we need to find good ways of preserving it, not just throwing it away at the first sign of perceived rot.  This goes for family relationships, friendships, our hopes and dreams in life.  Look around you and you will see so many people chucking these things away without much thought.  


I love the language of this poem.  He has a wonderful talent for description, using fantastic adjectives, metaphors etc.  How many can you discover?  Write them down.