“Blueberries” was originally published by Robert Frost in the 1914 book North of Boston.
The poem reads like a conversation between two people where one of the speakers has just come across a patch of ripe berries. This poem was possibly inspired by Frost’s early years of picking berries with his sister on their aunt’s farm.(1)
Blueberries as big as the end of your thumb, Real sky-blue, and heavy, and ready to drum In the cavernous pail of the first one to come!
After admiring the berries, the speakers turn their attention to the resilience of nature. Specifically, the way that the land recovers from a fire.
Why, there hasn’t been time for the bushes to grow. That’s always the way with the blueberries, though: There may not have been the ghost of a sign Of them anywhere under the shade of the pine, But get the pine out of the way, you may burn The pasture all over until not a fern Or grass-blade is left, not to mention a stick, And presto, they’re up all around you as thick And hard to explain as a conjuror’s trick.”
Next, the dialogue focuses on the impact of wild berries on the community.
“He seems to be thrifty; and hasn’t he need, With the mouths of all those young Lorens to feed? He has brought them all up on wild berries, they say, Like birds. They store a great many away. They eat them the year round, and those they don’t eat They sell in the store and buy shoes for their feet.”
But perhaps my favorite part of the poem is the description of the Loren children.
“I wish I knew half what the flock of them know Of where all the berries and other things grow, Cranberries in bogs and raspberries on top Of the boulder-strewn mountain, and when they will crop. I met them one day and each had a flower Stuck into his berries as fresh as a shower; Some strange kind—they told me it hadn’t a name.”
The poem concludes with a discussion about the speaker’s earlier interactions with the Loren family and some fond memories of their own berry picking.
Robert Frost once said in an interview with Harvey Breit: “One thing I care about, and wish young people could care about, is taking poetry as the first form of understanding. If poetry isn’t understanding all, the whole world, then it isn’t worth anything.”(2)
In this poem, Frost is not only talking about berries, but about conservation, economics, community, and family. He is talking about the whole world that emerges from a blueberry patch. “Blueberries” is an investigation into the interdependent nature of humanity and highlights that even a berry patch can have a tremendous impact on a community.
If you have a minute, read the full poem at Poets.org. Or you can read the full poem, plus all the other poems in North of Boston at Wikisource.
Let me know what you think. Or, if you have a favorite Frost poem that makes you feel more connected to nature. Please let me know in the comments section below.
- The Frost Place: Robert Frost’s Blueberries
- PoetryFoundation.org: Robert Frost
- Poets.org: Blueberries by Robert Frost
- Wikisource: North of Boston
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I grew up in Northern Maine. We picked blueberries every August. They grew in burned out areas. Of course, our picking patches were secret. We made jams and jellies out of them. I loved picking blueberries since they were easy to get into the pot. Raspberries and strawberries were a real trial to fill up a pot with. Blueberries, not so much.
Thanks so much for sharing! Your experience sounds very similar to what Frost is talking about. Thanks again!
A marvellous post about one of my favourite poets. I think Frost was in England, Great Britain, from 1912-1915 where he and Edward Thomas became great friends. When WW2 was declared Frost returned to America with Thomas’ son thinking the rest of Thomas’ family would follow but Thomas signed up to fight and was killed in the Battle of Arras in France in 1917 aged only 39. This all happened after Frost had written The Road Not Taken! How poignant is that! Another favourite poem has to be Mending Wall. Also, read After Apple-Picking (from North of Boston), a meditative poem. I think many of his poems have a conversational tone!
Hi Ashley, thank you so much for adding to this conversation! I am very much a novice when it comes to Frost. I know some of the classics, but I don’t know a lot of what he has written. I was pretty excited to see that I could read the North of Boston online. I had After Apple Picking on my reading list as it is almost apple season. Thanks again!
” He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake. ”
Of course, this is perhaps Frost’s most famous poem, but it’s so quiet and visual and nature oriented! I taught it every year to my first graders, and we learned some common sign language to go with it. In later years, I learned that the poem is actually about the contemplation of suicide on one level. But, a good poem can be interpreted on many different levels, and I realized my first graders were getting something different (and good) out of it.
Don’t know where you are located, but I love to take a trip to Amherst College here in Massachusetts now and again, and I always stop to see the huge statue of Frost overlooking the Western Massachusetts hills.
We’ve got to make lots of noise when we go blueberry and huckleberry picking around here so you don’t end up in a close encounter with a bear. It’s one of the black bears main food sources.
Hi Melanie, very interesting! Bears are amazing, but it is probably best not to sneak up on them. Good piece of advice!
We had the same problem with black bears too.
I really appreciate how you end your post with references. I’m a librarian and we always look for these things. Kudos!
Hi Russell, thanks for the comment and I am glad you appreciate the references. I always want to make sure the any borrowed ideas get back to the original author! Thanks for doing what you do. A good librarian can change lives!
What an awfully kind thing to say. Thank you!
Frost had a way with words. When time travel becomes ordinary, I’d like to go back and have a conversation with him over a cup of tea.
That would be nice wouldn’t it!
Yes it will 🙂
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My favorite is and always shall be “Stopping by the woods on a snowy evening.” Often I find my brain taking over and wondering, “whose woods these are”. Perhaps Frost is the reason I love the snow.
Hi Miki, Thanks for sharing that memory. I also enjoy Frost’s style of poetry and the statement “whose woods these are” could really lead you down a path of contemplation. Thanks for the comment!
Thanks for this really great especially as Robert Frost is one of the poets I admire, but it’s so hard to pick a favourite poem, ‘A Considerable Speck’ is always one that stays with me, it’s a humorous and satirical poem in which Frost describes a mite who is alive which he notices on the white piece of paper on which he is writing, he pauses with his pen over the paper and at first he thinks it a small drop of ink or speck of dust. Really worth a read if people aren’t familiar with it.
I agree that Robert Frost has many great poems. I am not familiar with “A Considerable Speck”. I’ll go check it out. Thanks for the recommendation! Thanks for the comment.
I love how you deep-dive into classic poetry on this blog!
I grew up in a rural community where berry picking was (and is) a popular pastime. I have fond memories of a friend/mentor who taught me where to look (and what was safe to eat!). She encouraged me to get out in nature. It changed the course of my life – for the better.
Hi Teresa, I am so glad you are enjoying the blog! I also really appreciate you sharing your experience with your mentor. It is amazing how some people have the ability to change our lives probably without even knowing it. What a great experience. Thanks again!