Friday, April 29, 2005

Two Pears

Two Pears in a Landscape
by Armando Morales (b. 1927).

While thinking about the following poem, I did an image search on Google just to see what kind of art featuring two pears I might find. It must be a popular subject, because there are loads of them. Perhaps that is why Wallace Stevens chose this as the focus of his poem; it is a subject most artists probably thought they knew quite well.


Opusculum paedagogum.
The pears are not viols,
Nudes or bottles.
They resemble nothing else.

They are yellow forms
Composed of curves
Bulging toward the base.
They are touched red.

They are not flat surfaces
Having curved outlines.
They are round
Tapering toward the top.

In the way they are modelled
There are bits of blue
A hard dry leaf hangs
From the stem.

The yellow glistens.
It glistens with various yellows,
Citrons, oranges and greens
Flowering over the skin.

The shadow of the pears
Are blobs on the green cloth.
The pears are not seen
As the observer wills.

Stevens was an analytical kinda guy. He loved to observe, think about what he was observing, and attempt to capture his experience with pen and paper. He is a popular poet, and I think that is in large part because his work evokes powerful imagery and emotions. Many of the are poignant, or even downright sad. Stevens came to know the ultimate futility of trying to capture reality with art, and sometimes his frustration with this is quite evident; but he also recognized the power, and perhaps necessity, of trying to do it anyway. He manages to be very complex and very accessible at the same time.

Csezlaw Milosz writes that this poem is "akin to a Cubist painting" in its divided listing of the pears' qualities, and that the speaker discovers that "pears prove to be impossible to describe" (64). What the poem actually tells us, however, is that "The pears are not seen / As the observer wills." This implies that the observer is trying to project his understanding of what pears are onto the pears he is viewing. He comes to the experience thinking, "Hey, piece of cake, I know what pears are. I'll just write that." The pears, however, cannot be forced into his limited paradigm. They not only prove to be something other than the speaker thought--more complex and more fluid--but they refuse to be pinned down by any static definition.

This is exciting. In that last line we can find the basis for postmodern thought. Yes, there may be truth, but we cannot capture it; as soon as we think we know what it is, it eludes us once more. There is always more to learn about it. Truth is not stagnant; and no matter how many times we try to force our static framework onto it, it will refuse to be limited. Humbling indeed.

This is why there are so many images of two pears to be found. They are all strikingly different, yet they are all two pears.


Anonymous said...

they are just thesame but with differences, alot of differences but still thesame.......two pears...

i like it ,keep it up!...:)

Knitting Painter Woman said...

Painting makes the samenessess, diferences and ahhhnesses clear to the painter as poetry does. I wish that everyone learned to write, write poetry and/or paint just in order to hone observational skills.

I'm glad I was referred to your site. Lovely. I'll be back.

Amy said...

I agree, Sultry. Everyone has the right to do art, at least because it teaches us to see our environment in different ways.

Green-Eyed Lady(GEL) said...

Yes, pears are popular and easily available artistic subjects. As an artist, we all often do fruit studies. Many move forward, smitten with the sensuality of the rounded forms of the pears. Yes, the differences between two pears, like two people often fascinate artist, as "eden" and you brought up! :)

I appreciate such skill, but my choice of subject matter is the sky, other landscapes, florals, pets, and people. I'm not a "still life type of person", but that may change. As an artist, I'm constantly evolving.