B. J. Leggett: On "Study of Two Pears"

A number of the poems of Parts of a World record the moments in which conventional seeing is destroyed through reduction of the commonsensical to a kind of obscurity. Although "Study of Two Pears" is not usually read in this manner, it is in part an exercise in freeing the world of conventional meaning, reducing the pears to "blobs." The exercise begins by resisting the impulse to see the pears through analogy with familiar objects, which would domesticate them, rob them of their uniqueness: "The pears are not viols, / Nudes or bottles. / They resemble nothing else." The temptation to think of them in terms of paintings of pears is also resisted ("They are not flat surfaces / Having curved outlines"), and the result is to convert them to form and color--"yellow forms / Composed of curves" . . . "touched red" . . . "round / Tapering toward the top." The farther from the conventional descriptions of pears the poem retreats, the more unpearlike the objects become. They reveal uncharacteristic "bits of blue," and the pear-yellow now "glistens with various yellows, / Citrons, oranges and greens." The final stage in this reduction is that of a formlessness in which the object loses its familiar look and resists the mind's attempt to dictate its appearance or meaning:

The shadows of the pears

Are blobs on the green cloth.

The pears are not seen

As the observer wills.

Properly obscure, the pears are now presumably ripe for the "early" or "first" seeing, a result not of the will or intelligence but of what Stevens [in "Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction"] calls "candid" seeing, an "ever-early candor" by which "Life's nonsense pierces us with strange relation."

From Wallace Stevens and Poetic Theory: Conceiving the Supreme Fiction. Copyright © 1987 by the University of North Carolina Press.


Title B. J. Leggett: On "Study of Two Pears" Type of Content Criticism
Criticism Author B. J. Leggett Criticism Target Wallace Stevens
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 05 Dec 2015
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication No Data
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