Pigs and Blackberries, Remembering Galway Kinnell

Galway Kinnnell, (c) Richard Brown, GalwayKinnell.com
Galway Kinnnell, © Richard Brown, GalwayKinnell.com

I don’t believe in fate, or any sort of mystical, supernatural predetermination of the universe. Sometimes great poets die just when you were becoming really familiar with their work. However, I do remember, back in October, being startled when in the week after we read “Blackberry Eating” at the Cross Keys Poetry Society, Galway Kinnell, the composer of that lovely piece of linguistic music passed away.

I had chosen “Blackberry Eating” to read at Cross Keys partly in response to our previous reading of “Blackberry Picking” by Irish poet, Seamus Heaney, who had passed on the year before.  Since I did recordings in memory of Heaney, I had decided to similarly experiment with recording a few pieces by Kinnell. It’s a fine, and humbling way to get to know a poet, by working your lips and tongue around the words he wrote, finding one’s own spoken interpretation of the work, while hoping to honor the writer as well.

I am sorry I have not shared them with you until now, though if you follow my SoundCloud stream you have already heard these. I will include my readings below, followed by links to the text of both “Blackberry Eating,” and “Saint Francis and the Sow.” The Saint Francis reading was not one I was happy with, at least not until about halfway through when the flow seemed to really smooth itself out. Considering the difficulty of translating the syntax of that piece into voice, even after listening to the poet’s own reading, I decided to let it be as I recorded it, and perhaps that mirrors somewhat the message of the poem, how beauty is found in things unexpected. In any case, the audio quality of that one is far better than the first, since it was recorded after the mic upgrade.

I will also include below a couple of readings by Kinnell, including one from the archives of the Scranton Public library (almost local for me) from 1979 in which he recites his famous poem, “The Bear,” though he seemed later in life to be less enthusiastic than his fans about that oft requested piece.

You can follow along the text on SoundCloud or on the Poetry Society of America.

Follow along on Poets.org while you listen.

8 Comments Add yours

  1. Thank you David for giving me Galway Kinnell I had never heard of him till now. “Sheffield Mountain Ode” made me cry. I enjoyed your reading of Blackberry Eating. I run a poetry workshop in a addiction clinic and I introduced to the class yesterday how certain smells can evoke a memory and I read my poem Blackberries. Strange it is Summer here in the UK and we are talking Autumn. Will put a blog up including my poem Blackberries after the weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh! I look forward to reading your poem. And what a wonderful thing, thank you for letting me know. I am honored to have introduced you. He is one of those poets who can get straight to that spot, somewhere between the gut and the soul.


  2. I enjoyed your reading of the blackberry poem by Kinnell. After this I took some time to get reacquainted with Kinnell’s life and poetry. I’d attended one of his readings and enjoyed the early books, and like the way it’s all come back. Thanks for that.


    1. Ah, wonderful to hear, Walt! Glad to have played a part in the reunion. Yes, his early readings were quite powerful, weren’t they? I enjoyed listening to his 1973 reading very much. He seems to have mellowed, but not in a bad way at all. I’ve been enjoying getting to know his work since last March. Sad to have lost him.


  3. keatsbabe says:

    This is so weird! I think we must be on some shared transatlantic wavelength! On the day this came into my inbox I had been introduced to Galway Kinnell as the author of a fabulous poem about Keats, called ‘Oatmeal’. http://www.tnellen.com/cybereng/poetry/oatmeal.html It isn’t easy to read aloud (for me any way). I shall read more of him now for certain 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dont’cha just love “weird”? I’ll check this out! Always great to see you stop by, Suzie. I am sorry I haven’t gotten back to you about the Terrace. Life got a bit precarious for a short while. Finding my feet again, so we’ll talk more soon.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. slpmartin says:

    Love your reading of his poem…his passing a loss to all who enjoy poetry

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Charles.


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