Poetry Reading: 'Blackberry Picking' It's time for an end-of-summer poetry treat: NPR's Tom Cole reads "Blackberry Picking," from Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney, found in Opened Ground: Selected Poems 1966-1996.

Poetry Reading: 'Blackberry Picking'

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And now as summer wanes and hurricanes draw near, we hear the words of another writer, an Irish poet, read here by NPR's Tom Cole.


"Blackberry-Picking" by Seamus Heaney.

(Soundbite of music)

COLE: (Reading) `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.'

(Soundbite of music)

COLE: (Reading) `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 briers scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.'

(Soundbite of music)

COLE: (Reading) `'Round hay fields, 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.'

(Soundbite of music)

COLE: (Reading) `We hoarded the fresh berries in the bier, but when the bath was filled, we found a fur, a rat-gray fungus glutting 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 keep; no, they would not.'

(Soundbite of music)

LYDEN: That was Seamus Heaney's poem "Blackberry-Picking" from the collection of his work "Open Ground: Selected Poems."

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