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Eating and Drinking Poems: William Stafford’s ‘Blackberries Are Back’


blackberry cobbler william stafford

Spring has–finally–managed to infiltrate the entire United States with its sunshine, fresh produce, and sneeze-inducing pollen. Kathryn Neel’s latest Eating and Drinking Poems post is a nostalgic ode to previous springs and the childhood spent wiling away the daylight, plucking blackberries for that evening’s dessert. As you read William Stafford’s poem “Blackberries Are Back” and enjoy a generous bowl of cobbler and cream, close your eyes to remember when your hands were small, and your fingers stained with berries. 

It has been a long miserable winter for almost everyone, even those of us who live in Florida. Now mind you we Floridians were not buried repeatedly in snow, but we did have to deal with numerous grey days of what seemed like unending rain, wind, and temperatures that stayed in the 40s and 50s. I began to believe I had moved to the Pacific Northwest at one point. Spring seemed like it was never going to come and I started daydreaming about the springs of my childhood.

My favorite memories of spring in Alabama were the return of brightly colored song birds to the magnolia and gardenias in our yard, the appearance of daffodils and irises, and all the different kinds of berries that would start showing up on hillsides and dessert tables. Strawberries in the garden, raspberries and blackberries growing wild on the hills; my cousins and I would be sent out to gather as many as our pails could hold.

Our mothers would call out that we should wear long sleeve shirts so we wouldn’t get scratched up by the stickers on the canes, but we never listened. We would take off down the lane, barefooted, in shorts and short sleeved shirts, swinging our buckets as we went, our cheeks and noses sun kissed with the beginning of summer tans. Only about half the berries made it into the pails to return home where they would be made into jam, pies, or cobblers. Most of them would be eaten plump and warm on the hillside, dark juice running down our scratched arms and legs, but we didn’t mind, at least not until bath time.

So here is a recipe to celebrate the arrival of spring and to say good-bye once and for all to this year’s long winter. For those of you whose berry patch has not managed to poke its head above the ground,  feel free to use frozen blackberries, but when enjoying your cobbler, imagine lying in the sun with your best childhood buddies, contemplating what sort of mischief to get into next.

Blackberry Cobbler
Servings Prep Time
4servings 15minutes
Cook Time
Servings Prep Time
4servings 15minutes
Cook Time
Blackberry Cobbler
Servings Prep Time
4servings 15minutes
Cook Time
Servings Prep Time
4servings 15minutes
Cook Time
Servings: servings
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 3 quart baking dish with butter.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk 1 cup sugar with the flour and milk. Wisk in the melted butter.
  3. Rinse the blackberries and pat them dry. Pour the batter into the baking dish. Sprinkle the blackberries evenly over the top of the batter. Sprinkle ¼ cup of sugar over the blackberries. Bake until golden brown and bubbly about 1 hour. When 10 minutes of the cooking time remains, sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar over the top.
  4. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream … or both!
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“Blackberries Are Back”

Blackberries are back. They cling near

little streams. Their eyes, bright


make tunnels through the vines.

They see their own thorns in the sky,

and the print of leaves.


At night they hide inside the wind,

ready to try the outdoors on.

They swing for distance, root for

fidelity. The truth is your only ransom

once they touch your tongue.

–  William Stafford


Photo by Lori L. Stalteri, Creative Commons via Flickr. Post by Kathryn Neel.

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Your Comments

10 Comments so far

  1. Oh my word. I don’t think there’s anything in that recipe I’m supposed to eat if I actually follow this new diet thing. Except maybe the blackberries.

    I. Must. Have. This.

    And there’s nothing better than warm berries fresh from the brambles.

  2. Kathryn Neel says:

    All things in moderation, even diets. :)

  3. I have a friend who grows thornless blackberries. She’s enamored with ‘em. Despite her love affair, it just doesn’t seem legal.

    My frozen blackberries are gone, but I still have peaches and blueberries in nifty zippy bags. Thanks for the inspiration!

  4. I love William Stafford, but I didn’t know that poem.

    One of my favorite food memories was visiting a friend in Waco, and she said, “Would you like some cobbler?” We said, “Sure.” She said, “Great. I’ve got some blackberries from home.” And she whipped up a blackberry cobbler right then & there. It is still the best blackberry cobbler I’ve ever eaten.

  5. Erica M. says:

    I remember reading this poem a long time ago. Both places I’ve lived had huge blackberry bushes behind the house and we’d pick those bushes clean. I could run across the road and buy some from the store but it’s not the same as picking them myself!

    • Donna says:

      Agreed! You’ve helped me remember the taste of sunshine warmed blackberries in my grandmother’s back yard! You are so right – much better than the store. :0)

  6. Marcy says:

    When was the last time you went blackberry pickin? It’s been that long for me too. First spray yourself with “Off.” Grab a big hat & bucket. There I stood, shorts & a sleeveless top, it was hot day & the word “Stupid” was printed on my forehead. Why are the biggest, plumpest, berries always in the back? At first things went well, I was careful, bare armed, bare hands. The more I picked the more I saw, it was early and the bee’s hadn’t woke-up yet. As I picked away I went for those plum big ones in the back. This one, that one, I can’t leave any behind. Then it happened, my right arm got caught on a thorn, then another and another. I felt like poor Peter Rabbit as my flesh was pulled away bit by bit. It hurt, each thorn still intact in my flesh. Then it came to me like a flash from childhood. I don’t have to do this anymore, I’m not on the farm, my parents have passed away, why am I here? No one told me to do this. My leg itches, my right arm looks like a cat tore into it. All in all, my freezer is holding twelve cups of fresh blackberries, but I’m never going back. Never.

  7. Kathryn Neel says:

    I think blackberry picking is best left to children with their smaller hands and arms. They seem to be able to manage to get into tighter places with out as many scratches as adults and the scratches they do get seem not to bother them as much. :)

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