17 March 2015

The Three Pears





















I.
Three pears ripen
On the ledge.  Weeks pass.
They are a marriage

The middle one's the conversation
The other two are having.
He is their condition.

Three wings without birds,
Three feelings.
How can they help themselves.

They can't.
How can they say that?
They can.

II.
The pears are consulting.
Business is bad this year,

D'Anjou, Bartlett.
They are psychiatrists,

Patient and slick.
Hunger reaches the hard stem.

It will get rid of them.

III.
The pears are old women;
They are the same.
Slight rouge,
Green braille dresses,
They blush in unison.


They will stay young.
They will not ripen.
In the new world,
Ripeness is nothing.
  - "Trois Morceaux en Forme de Poire" from White Dress by Brenda Hillman, Middletown, CT, Wesleyan University Press: 1985.


"Monsieur Erik Sate is crazy...  He talked a lot and spoke very well.  He believes his new invention is superior to everything that has been written up till this day; perhaps he is wrong; but it would not do to tell him; he would not believe it." (my translation of remarks made by a music critic that were relayed in a letter from Erik Satie to Claude Debussy after the premier of Satie's Trois Morceaux en Forme de Poire for piano four-hands  in 1903.  The Impressionist composers, of whom Debussy was one, had been accused of creating music that lacked form.  In reply to the charge Satie asked "What form?  In the form of what?"   He answered with Three Morsels In The Form Of A Pear ; in fact there are seven movements to the piece.  Satie was never one to let sleeping dogs lie.
Is it the asymmetrical shape that makes the pear an appealing form for sly humor?  The British folklorists Peter and Iona Opie collected numerous puns, riddles, etc. based on the wayward fruit.   The origins of the pear are so ancient that every civilization can lay claim to it.  It may come as a surprise to realize that not all its varieties are 'pear-shaped.' 

Today is the birthday of the poet Brenda Hillman. 


I am indebted to Jules Janick's delightful essay The Pear In History, Literature, Popular Culture, And Art (Purdue University)

 Images:
1. Mario Avati  - Pour un baladin, 1996, Musee de l'Oise, Beauvais
2. Andre Marchand -  La Boutelle et les Fruits, 1945, Pompidou Center, Paris.










4 comments:

alestedemadrid said...

The essay about pears is really charming.

jane said...

Alestedemadrid, thanks for your kind words. I owe it to Brenda Hillman's charming poem.

Thérèse said...

Fun!

jane said...

Therese, yes! Glad you enjoyed it. Satie knew to use humor to get people to listen to his music. I think it's like having sherbet between courses of a meal to clean the palette. There was such a worshipful attitude toward heavy Germanic-sounding music in Satie's time.