Kelli McBride

Lucien Stryk "Cherries" Assignment

Supplemental Information

Links to html version of major "Cherries" handouts.


Below is a collection of quotations from various sources about cherries and what they might symbolize. As you read Stryk's poem, realize that the meaning of cherries in the poem can change with each use and reference. It is not necessarily a static image. Also, realize that interpreting a poem can brings us to many possible meanings. Just because someone else may interpret a line differently does not mean you are right or wrong. That's the beauty, and yes frustration, of literary analysis.


Think of the common meanings of the cherry. Sexually, it refers to the female body, specifically virginity, but cherries have also been used to compare to lips and cheeks - especially coloring. Cherries are sweet and sour, and though luscious, they also have pits. So they are both delicious and difficult to eat.


Cherries are round, and circles can symbolize the course of life, ending/beginning, perfection and symmetry, the entirety of life or the planet (think globe).


Cherries are red, and that color can represent passion, anger, heat, desire, inflammation, danger, stop, etc.


"Cherry-picking" refers to choosing only the best and rejecting anything else.


These are just some thoughts to help you make sense of what Stryk is trying to say. Another important aspect of Stryk is that he has studied Zen and is famous for his translations of Japanese haiku into English. He believes in a Zen view of the world - balance, everything thing is part of the whole, etc. Here's is a short YouTube video about Zen. At the end, the narrator explains an aspect of Zen that should connect specifically to the poem's speaker and his view of the world.

The Zen Mind - An Introduction by Empty Mind Films



“Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherries” (song by Lew Brown and Ray Henderson)


Life is just a bowl of cherries;

Don't make it serious;

Life's too mysterious.

You work, you save, you worry so,

But you can't take your dough when you go, go, go.

So keep repeating it's the berries;

The strongest oak must fall.

The sweet things in life

To you were just loaned,

So how can you lose what you've never owned?

Life is just a bowl of cherries,

So live and laugh at it all.

Ben Vereen singing "Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherries"


Cherry. Cherries can symbolize fertility, merrymaking, and festivity. In Japan, where cherry blossoms are the national flower, cherries represent beauty, courtesy, and modesty. The ancient Chinese regarded the fruit as a symbol of immortality. One Chinese legend tells of the goddess Xi Wang Mu, in whose garden the cherries of immortality ripen every thousand years. Because cherry wood was thought to keep evil spirits away, the Chinese placed cherry branches over their doors on New Year's Day and carved cherry wood statues to stand guard in front of their homes. (“Fruit in Mythology”)

Red Cherry Tree Facts by Nancy Wagner


  • Overview: Red cherry trees fall into two main categories consisting of sweet cherries and sour cherries. Sweet cherries taste delicious right off the tree when mature. While some people eat sour cherries freshly picked from the tree, the cherry typically gets cooked first to make it more tasty. Most red cherries ripen in late spring when other tree fruits are just growing, giving gardeners an early fruit crop to enjoy.


  • Pollination: Most red sweet cherry trees require another tree to pollinate with in order to bear fruit. While the trees still grow and blossom, without a nearby tree to pollinate with, little to no fruit appears on the tree. Gardeners need to check on what cherry trees best pollinate each other as not all sweet cherry trees cross-pollinate. Sour cherry trees do not require another tree with which to pollinate as they are self-fertile.


  • Planting and Pruning: Most cherry trees thrive in well-drained soil in full sun. Cherry trees tend to be very hardy since they bloom early in spring when the threat of late frost still presents a danger. Planting trees on higher ground or on mounds away from buildings keeps frost damage to a minimum. The plants require regular watering until well-established. Most cherry trees need to grow three to five years before the first fruit appears. Cherries get pruned in the summer to let in light and to thin out branches.


  • Varieties: A variety of red cherry trees exist, including the native wild red cherry. Also known as the pin cherry, the tree features sour cherries that grow on plants reaching 15 feet in height. Pin cherries represent one of the few red cherries that mature in late summer and early fall, growing in Canada's boreal forest regions. One of the most popular sweet cherry varieties, the bing cherry, grows in hardiness zones 5 to 9, featuring large sweet juicy cherries. The most popular sour cherry, the Montmorency cherry, grows in zones 4 to 9. Most pies get made with Montmorency cherries.

Across cultures, cherries symbolize a variety of characteristics, for example, in ancient China cherries are a symbol of immortality; in Japan they represent beauty, courtesy, and modesty; in Western cultures they symbolize wisdom, hard work, love, and happiness or a symbol of the fleeting quality of life's pleasures; in dreams they can symbolize honesty and truthfulness; or, in contemporary Western popular culture they symbolize sexuality and womanhood; cherries are especially popular in Central and East Europe where in literature and the visual arts cherries are a frequent motif. (Tötösy de Zepetnek)

Works Cited

Brown, Lew, and Ray Henderson. “Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherries.” Songs of the Great Depression. Web. The College of Staten Island of The City University of New York. 1 June 2010 <>.

Empty Mind Films. "The Zen Mind - An Introduction." Web. 24 Oct. 2006. 1 June 2010 <>.

“Fruit in Mythology.” Encyclopedia of Myths. 2009. Web. 1 June 2010 <>.

Stryk, Lucien. “Cherries.” The Power of Language; The Language of Power. Ed. Jessica Isaacs, et al. 2nd ed. Boston: Pearson Custom, 2006. 565. Print.

Tötösy de Zepetnek, Steven. "History of CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture." CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture (Library). Web. 2010. 1 June 2010 <>.


Vereen, Ben. "Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherries." Web. 18 Dec. 2008. 1 June 2010 <>.

Wagner, Nancy. "Red Cherry Tree Facts." Garden Guides, Your Guide to Everything Gardening. Web. 01 June 2010 <>.