Eating Poetic Fruit–and Words

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Simplicity. In poetry, it’s tough to embrace and get away with. You read something as simple as Galway Kinnell’s “Blackberry Eating” and say, “How easy. I can do that!”

And then you try.

It’s like those foolhardy fiction writers who make the terrible mistake of imitating Ernest Hemingway. Seems simple enough. Only the emulating stylists wind up producing something akin to Frankenstein’s monster playing violin. Badly.

As writing inspiration, simple poems can be deceiving. They sometimes scatter common writers’ “Thou shalt not’s” to the wind, too. For instance, “Thou shalt not overindulge in adjectives.” Here we have a 14-line (sonnet-like) poem that serves up not one, two, or three, but FOUR adjectives in Line 2 alone.

Explanation? Simple. Eating is a sensory experience. A reader needs adjectives to fully digest it.

For me, “Blackberry Eating” recalls the simple joys of William Carlos Williams’ “This Is Just To Say,” wherein WCW helps himself to “delicious,” “sweet,” and “cold” plums in the icebox:

“This is Just to Say” by William Carlos Williams

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

 

Summer’s on the wane. Harvest time continues. Time to pick some fruit (your choice) and release yourself to juicy simplicity. To whet your appetite, here’s Kinnell’s love letter to blackberries and words:

“Blackberry Eating” by Galway Kinnell

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,
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.

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