Plath lived until she was only 31, in this time she wrote many poems and an autobiographical novel. She was married to Ted Hughes, the poet, but it was not a happy marriage. She was mentally and emotionally fragile. Many of her poems reflect this fragility. She had a fascination with suicide and death, and believed that death would lead to rebirth. Blackberrying is a rich and sensual poem written without regular metre or rhyme.
Repetition : at the beginning of the poem Plath emphasises aloneness: ‘Nobody...nothing, nothing'. The first line ends with ‘blackberries' and this is repeated in the singular and plural form in the next 3 lines. She is very precise - there are more blackberries to her right - the crooked lane proceeds ‘in hooks' and in metaphor, as a ‘blackberry alley'.....and the mention of the sea somewhere at the end ‘heaving'.
The blackberries in the lane are heaving also - and two similes are used to describe their size - as big as ‘the ball of my thumb' and their colour, ‘dumb as eyes/Ebon' Imagining their taste a rich ‘blue-red juices' - both appeal to our senses. The berries are so ‘fat', the verb ‘squander' is used as they burst open as they are picked and this expresses their ripeness. The metaphor ‘blood sisterhood' suggests that nature is female and perhaps the mingling of blood is a part of this sisterhood ritual. She feels that they ‘must love her'. Perhaps this is mentioned because she herself felt unloved and unable to love - perhaps she finds it funny that things of nature love her. There is a wonderful image of all the blackberries squeezing sensually into the milkbottle - somehow fitting exactly.
As well as sight, touch and taste, there is now sound as she hears the ‘choughs' (crows), flying overhead ‘Cacophonous' describes their shrieking cries and the vivid metaphor describes how they free fall and also their blackness ‘bits of burnt paper'. Why do they protest? We are not told. The sea is mentioned again, reinforcing the length of the lane as it twists and turns - then the light on the meadow ‘glowing, as if lit from within' a warmth and a welcoming feeling. When she describes the metaphorical ‘bush of flies, this should be horrid, but it is beautiful - flies, full up, with their ‘bluegreen bellies, and their wings ‘chinese screen - and we see flies in a totally new light. The sweetness of the berries is their ‘honey-feast'.......they ‘believe in heaven' - they are so consumed with pleasure in their blackberry feast. The end of this stanza, is the end of the lane and the end of the berries.
In the final verse she looks forward to the sea. Now out of the sheltered lane, she feels the wind gusting funnelled between the hills. The metaphor ‘slapping' should be harsh, but is not, because it is ‘phantom laundry' that catches her face - a down to earth description of being beaten by washing on the washing line. The hills are personified as too green to have ‘tasted salt'. She follows a sheep path, and the ‘face' of the hills is a cliff of ‘orange rock' looking north. From plentiful detail - there is nothing, nothing = ‘a great space' - the repetition signifies the size and sameness of the sea. The sea too has beauty - described as metal - ‘white and pewter lights', waves and greyness. The noise of the sea ‘din' as though ‘silversmiths' beat the metal without any cause - it is ‘intractable'. There is a fearful and cold ending to the poem which before held so much warmth with images rich with images and colour.
The poem can be seen as simply as poem describing the beauty of nature - or conversely, a reflection of her life - the enjoyment of beauty, but also a vision of underlying pain (final verse) from which she could not escape