To a Blossoming Pear Tree
Pulitzer Prize-winner James Wright, who received the coveted award in 1972 for his Collected Poems, again offers the reader a glimpse of his vision of the brotherhood of man. From the Midwest of America to Italy, Wright speaks of a common unity between all people. This volume of poetry, dedicated to Wright’s friends, Helen McNeely Sheriff and John Logan, contains thirty-seven poems by Wright and one poem by his wife, Annie. Recognized for his previous works, The Green Wall, Saint Judas, The Branch Will Not Break, Shall We Gather at the River, Collected Poems, and Two Citizens, Wright continues his themes and philosophy in this new collection.
No matter what its setting—whether it is his native Ohio, the farmlands of Minnesota and the Dakotas, the deserts of Arizona, the cities of Minneapolis, Chicago, or New York, or the older lands of Europe—Wright’s is a poetry of connection, of bonds. These bonds—these ties that bind poet and reader to the same past, memory, experience—connect the poems in this collection. Through them, one sees a connection between the Ohio River and the Adige River of Italy, between the old man climbing up from the Venetian canals and the old man down by the Ohio River with a potato for a small boy, and between the author/persona who gives the mosquito sustenance and the Indian with the hook for a hand who gives the author money for a bus ticket out of town. The last poem, entitled “Beautiful Ohio,” represents a return home to the place where Wright grew up, to the place where “Those old Winnebago men/ Knew what they were singing.” It is a place also where the sewer main from Martin’s Ferry flows into the river from a drain in the river bank, where the river was “Quickened. . . . With the speed of light.” and where the light from the river “caught there/ The solid speed of their lives.” Wright, recognizing the full irony of the conclusion, writes,
I know what we call itMost of the time.But I have my own song for it,And sometimes, even today,I call it beauty.
Through this poem, the author connects us to his home, but more importantly, perhaps, connects to us his point of view, his general philosophy of life. The metaphor of sewage becoming light and consequently beauty, is extended and carried over, unstated, in every poem. Wright’s continual search for beauty and brotherhood is the unifying theme of the collection.
Thus, in “To a Blossoming Pear Tree,” the author can examine the beauty of the tree, just matured and now blossoming, and personify it into a young boy, alternately the author/ persona and some other boy not identified. The beauty of the tree with its “Beautiful natural blossoms,” its “Pure delicate body,” transfixes the author, forcing him to recognize its perfection and to recall his own days of “blossoming.” The recalled memory, however, is not one of beauty; rather, it is one of pitiful desperation. The persona as a boy was approached by an old man seeking both solace and sex, or, as Wright says, “He was so near death/ He was willing to take/ Any love he could get. . . .” It is a significant indication of the overall tone and point of view of this collection that Wright should see the old man’s...
(The entire section is 1418 words.)