Slyvia Plath was born in Boston on October 27th 1932. She was well known for her poems, novels and short stories. She was chiefly responsible for giving an impetus to the genre of confessional poetry. Her best known collections are The Colossus and Other Poems, Ariel and The Bell Jar. The Bell Jar is a semi-autobiographical novel published just before her death. She was awarded the Pulitzer Prize posthumously in 1982 for The Collected Poems. Plath was diagnosed as depressed and was treated many times. She died by suicide in 1963.
‘Blackberrying’ is apparently a simple poem of picking black berries. At one reading it might seem simple but there are layers of deeper meaning which is the very nature of confessional poetry. The poet is walking down a lane which is bordered by nothing but blackberries. Though they are seen on both the sides the right side has more of them. The alley is winding and she believes it will end by the sea, as she hears the heave of the waves. There are blackberries the size of the ball on the thumb finger and as black and big as the eyes. These fat berries gave out blue-red juices when squashed. Since women also bleed she feels a sense of sisterhood, she feels they love her. Since they love her, the berries she picked accommodate themselves in her milk bottle.
In the second stanzas some more black things are introduced. The choughs which are almost like the crows are flying above and they are a ‘cacophonous flock’ as they were protesting. They looked like bits of burnt paper flying in the sky. Meanwhile the poet is still walking and the sea is still not in sight. The meadows are glowing and then she came upon a bush which was so full of ripe berries that it was covered with flies, blue green ones.These flies are staggered in the sweetness of the berries, they think it is heaven. Then she turns another corner and then there are no more berries.
With the last turn she hopes to see the sea but no. She is hit by gusts of wind that blows between two hills. Those hills are so green and she feels that they have been untouched by the salty sea breeze. She then follows the sheep path between these hills and with the last bend she comes to face the northern side of the hill which was a stark difference from what she had seen until then. The rocks were orange in colour and there was nothing but vast uninteresting space with white and grey lights. There were sounds of silversmiths beating on ‘intractable metal’. The poet who had given an elaborate description of nature ends the poem with the scene moving to civilization and that she describes in two lines.
‘Blackberrying is a poem with 27 lines in three stanzas, each stanza having 9 lines and is a free verse as there is no specific rhyme scheme. Imagery used in the poem gives the reader a feeling of darkness everywhere and just for a short while the greenness of the hills are mentioned and then the drab colours of the human civilization is painted at the end of the poem. Anaphora is seen in the repetition of words ‘nothing’ and ‘beating’. Enjambment, where the thought of the first ends in the second line, is used twice in the first stanza.
A blackberry alley, going down in hooks, and a sea
Somewhere at the end of it, heaving.
Ebon in the hedges, fat
With blue-red juices.
This poem is seen as a simple poem at the first reading but we understand that there is more to it. The poet is painting a dark picture outside to show her pain inside. The images used are the black berries, choughs and house flies which aredark indicating death. The wind blows ‘phantom’ laundry on her face and the flies gather around the berries as if it were ‘heaven’. So, right though the poem there is an indication of death. Nevertheless life is depicted in nature with its myriad colours and when she turns to the space of humanity it is drab with white and grey colours and lot of metallic sounds. The poet ends her journey there contrasting nature and humanity.