Explicating a Poem
An explication is a paraphrase or summary of a poem—its basic situation and what it says. It doesn’tinterpret; the idea is to just objectively report, in your own words, what’s happening in the poem.Explication can help you to get a handle on even a difficult piece, and is also useful when discussing poetry in an essay.
To a Blossoming Pear Tree
Beautifulnatural blossoms,How could you possiblyWorry or bother or careAbout the ashamed, hopelessOld man? He was so near deathHe was willing to takeAny love he could get,Even at the riskOf some mocking policemanOr some cute young wiseacreSmashing his dentures,Perhaps leading him onTo a dark place and thereKicking him in his dead groinJust for the fun of it.Youngtree, unburdenedBy anything but your beautiful natural blossomsAnd dew, the darkBlood in my body drags meDown with my brother.
Beautiful natural blossoms,Pure delicate body,You stand without trembling.Little mist of fallen starlight,Perfect, beyond my reach,How I envy you.For if you could only listen,I would tell you something,Something human.An old manAppeared to me onceIn the unendurable snow.He had a singe of whiteBeard on his face.He paused on a street inMinneapolisAnd stroked my face.Give it to me, he begged.I'll pay you anything.I flinched. Both terrified,We slunk away,Each in his own way dodgingThe cruel darts of the cold.
The speaker isapparently sitting or standing before apeartree, presumably in spring, in no particular location. He speaks to the tree, and describes it as delicate,fearless,unreachable, and enviable, and then says that he will tell the tree “something human.”In the second stanza, the speaker recalls an incident in which an old man propositioned him on a dark, wintery street in Minneapolis. Addressing the tree again as “beautiful” and “natural,” he then muses on how free the tree must be of concern forthe desperate and nearlydeadold man, who risks pointless and even sadistic violence on the streets in his pursuit of love.In the third and final stanza, the speaker again remarks on how unburdened, young, beautiful, and natural the tree, and then makes an abrupt assertion about how his “dark blood” brings him “down” with his fellow man.
An Explication of James Wright’s “To a Blossoming Pear Tree”
AnInterpretationof James Wright’s “To a Blossoming Pear Tree”
James Wright’s poem “To a Blossoming Pear Tree” is about the terrible burden and fatality of being human—in sharp contrast to what he sees as an ideal, free, and beautiful natural world. To be human is to be broken andeven sick—although, in the end, Wright’s view is tempered by aparadoxicalinsight.The speaker of the poem first addresses the tree in terms of its delicacy, beauty, tenderness, and purity, saying that he envies it.Indeed, one can feel the longing in his voice: “how I envy you.” Hethen recounts an incident which is everything that the pear tree isnot: ugly, shameful, suffering, and brutal—a world, in other words, that ishumanand anything but natural.Interestingly, the speaker describes the encounter in a way which implicates himself in the old man’s shame. He says that he “flinched,” when he receives the sexual proposition, and that he “slunk away,” just like the old man, doing what he can, just like the old man, to avoid the“cold,” which may include pointlessor even sadisticviolence on the streets. This picture of the human world is in direct andstark contrastto the world of the pear tree.By the time the speaker comes back to present moment and the tree and, for a third time, describes it as free, youthful, beautiful, and natural, he has given us a very bleak view of humanity indeed.Interestingly, however, in describingwhatis the bleakest in the human condition—our entrapment in our own bodies, in desire, loneliness, and need—he isatthe exactsame time assertingthe brotherhood ofall people.Our connection to each othermay be nothing more than the blood that runs in our veinsand our common mortality, butit is a connection nonetheless. Love and connectedness, in Wright’s poems,are always hard-won andalwaysredeem what would otherwise be intolerable suffering.
An Interpretation of James Wright’s “To a Blossoming Pear Tree”
James Wright’s“To a Blossoming Pear Tree” is typicallyunderstood as a very compassionate poem in which aman identifies with a desperate bum on the streets, contrasting the brutal and fateful human world to the natural world of a blossoming tree.Wright’s poem is amovingone, andwe should take care not to readagainst its ultimatelyhumanemessage. It’s hard not to notice, however,the gendered language of the poem, especially in the speaker’s description of the tree. Ultimately, and despite the poem’s best intentions, it relegates women to a position of absolute, even inhuman Other. The world of men is equated with humanness; the world of women with the impossibly Ideal.From the very first stanza, we get a description of a tree which is both wholly separate from the speaker and also interestingly feminine, even slightly childlike. The tree is describes as _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________