This has always been a favorite Kinnell poem of mine. The imagery is rich and the advice the speaker gives the younger person who is contemplating suicide is so practical 'Wait' and even 'Distrust everything, if you have to./ But trust the hours. Haven't they/ carried ' to this point and won't they carry the young person from this point onward. A beautiful poem!
'The Blackthorn' is not one of McKee's strongest poems; however, its imagery carries the poem from beginning to end. The image of the hands and the handing down of the walking stick; the handing down of one's roots, Irish roots at that; the handing sown of joy embraced by sorrow but not regret. The sense of loss strikes out as the walking stick is no longer with the family, but the father of the speaker is reunited with his father - back in Ireland - in a grave where 'the sturdy blackthorns/ were defying that sad land/ and bursting with white blossoms.' A sense of joy and beauty of things gained outweighs the regret and remorse of things lost.