CONSTANTLY RISKINGABSURDITY By: Lawrence Ferlinghetti
Big IdeaThe poet‟s journey for truth and beautywhen writing poetry is compared to anacrobat walking across a tight rope.
Constantly risking absurdity taut truth and death before the taking of each stance or whenever he performs step above the heads In his supposed advance toward that still higher perch of his audience where Beauty stands and waits the poet like an acrobat with gravity climbs on rime To start her death-defying to a high wire of his own leap making And heand balancing on a little charleychaplin man eyebeams who may or may not catch above a sea of faces her fair eternal form paces his way spreadeagled in the empty air to the other side of day of existence performing entrechats and sleight-of-foot tricks and other high theatrics and all without mistaking any thing for what it may not be For he‟s a super realist who‟s must perforce perceive
Title The title, “Constantly risking absurdity,” is unusual in the sense that the first word is capitalized but the two words that follow are not.Why is that? Just by simply reading this unpredictable title, the reader already beings to question and become curious about the poem from the very beginning. The capitalization or lack thereof adds to the suspense of what is to come.
Lack of Punctuation There is absolutely no punctuation throughout this poem; not even a period at the end of the poem. No commas or periods throughout the play leads to a sense of suspense. To put punctuation, would be to stop the suspense and the intrigue of what is to come next. The poet is unable to add punctuation because he is not capable of knowing the future, just as the acrobat is not capable of
Spacing The spacing is like ordered chaos It appears as if it was not thought out well, but when looked at closer, each line actually has very careful placement When someone is walking on a tight rope you don‟t know what‟s going to happen. The rope sways back and forth; will he succeed, will he fall to his death? The audience is constantly in suspense and this sort of suspense is paralleled in the structure of this poem. As a reader, you don‟t know what the next line will look like. The poet keeps you in suspense throughout the poem, just as the acrobat keeps the audience in suspense. The spaces from line to line act as if the words are swaying back and forth from line to line just as an acrobat swings back and forth on a rope.
No definitive starting and stoppingpoints This particular poem cannot have any stopping points, because when compared to an acrobat, if the acrobat stops along the rope, he will most likely fall.
Capitalization “Constantly risking absurdity” (1).• The poem must start off normal to the reader and stable, just as the acrobat‟s first step on the tight rope, must be stable. “For he‟s the super realist” (19).• This line must start with a capital letter because the poet is being introduced as a super realist and the lines that follow almost work as its own stanza with “For,” being the first word. “where Beauty stands and waits” (25).• Beauty is the only word capitalized within the poem, rather than in the beginning of a line, because it is portrayed as a woman, therefore the name must be capitalized. “And he” (28).• This “And” is the start the last section of the poem that can almost be looked at as its own stanza.
Rhyme Scheme Only rhyme throughout the play, “paces his way/ to the other side of day” (11-12). There is not a particular rhyme scheme throughout the poem or really any rhyming at all because to have a particular rhyme scheme throughout the play would make the poem seem predictable, something it cannot be.
Key Lines “and balancing on eye beams” (9).• The placement of this line is very interesting because it is the line furthest to the left. It appears the most safe and secure, just as the acrobat would be if he was balancing very well. “paces his way” (11).• This line appears as if it is moving very slowly to the right as if it is inching across the beam from the previous place of security in line 9.
Beauty and the Poet “in his supposed advance/ Once you are up on the high toward that still higher perch/ beam (or higher level of where Beauty stands and thinking) and ready and waits/ with gravity/ to start her willing to seek beauty, you death-defying leap/ And he/ a either catch it or you don‟t. little charleychaplin man/ who The beauty takes the form of may or may not catch/ her fair a woman and takes a “death- eternal form/ spreadeagled in defying leap” (27), and the the empty air/ of existence” “little charleychaplin man” (23-33). (29), either catches, “her fair eternal form/ spreadeagled in the empty air/ of existence” (31-33), or doesn‟t. The reader can visualize beauty taking a leap from a stand and hoping that the poet in the form of an acrobat will safely catch her.
Simile“the poet like an acrobat” (6). Just as the acrobat is all alone on the rope with no one else to depend on, the poet must depend solely on himself and his thoughts in order to discover the truth, leading him to something deeper within himself and furthermore about life in general.
Allusion “a little charleychaplin man” (29). The poet makes a reference to Charlie Chaplain, and uses his name as an adjective, when describing the acrobat. Charlie Chaplain was a comedian during the silent film era. He was a big influence on Ferlinghetti‟s work.
Personification “where Beauty stands and waits/ with gravity/ to start her death-defying leap… her fair eternal form” (25-31). The poet portrays beauty as woman and is the „her‟ in this case.
“Constantly risking absurdity/ anddeath/ whenever he performs” (1-3). The poet is constantly risking absurdity therefore he is not afraid to be illogical or contrary to all reason or sense. The poet is willing to do things that seem illogical to discover a higher truth and beauty. This mirrors the acrobat‟s ill sense of going on the high beam and doing something that seems illogical to entertain his audience and have them find beauty and truth.
“to a high wire of his own making”(8). The rope is as dangerous as the poet is willing to make it However the poet makes the rope and how high the wire is, is how deep of a discovery the poet will make about himself or truth and beauty in general
“performing entrechats/ and sleight-of-foot tricks/ andother high theatrics/ and all without making mistaking/any thing” (13-17). An entrechat is, “a jump in which the dancer crosses the feet a number of times while in the air” (dictionary.com). The poet shows how skilled the acrobat truly is; the acrobat is not afraid to perform risky tricks, just as the poet is not afraid to write in an elaborate or risky way.
“who must perforce perceive/ taut truth/before the taking of each stance or step”(20-21). By using the word “perforce” the poet insinuates that to find the “taut truth” is a necessary thing. He explains that the poet finds the truth because it is not an option, but rather a necessity. The poet uses the word “taut” in reference to a taut rope that the acrobat walks across.
“toward that still higher perch/where Beauty stands and waits”(24-25). The poet is striving towards beauty Beauty is the ultimate goal By stating that Beauty is not only standing, but also waiting, the reader can understand that Beauty is not only capable of being attained, but truly wants to be attained.
Reflection“It is not meters, but a meter-making argument,that makes a poem- a thought so passionate andalive that, like the spirit of a plant or an animal, ithas an architecture of its own, and adorns naturewith a new thing” (Emerson).
The nature of its own thing could be the way the poem is set up and how it looks unlike any other poem seen before Its unique structure enhances the poem to a point where it is unlike anything else. It is distinct and the words have more meaning based on the poem‟s own architecture. “It adorns nature with a new thing”, could mean nature has never seen anything like this The poet put words in such an order that has never been done before Although the same words could have been used, no poem is exactly identical in the way the words are placed or in this case spaced out.
ConclusionThe poet utilizes a unique structure, strongfigurative language and diction, as well asimagery to compare his strive towardsBeauty to a skilled acrobat walking across atight-rope.