Constantly risking absurdity

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english poem analysis

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Constantly risking absurdity

  1. 1. Constantly risking absurdity a poem by Lawrence Ferlinghetti (b. 1919) Critiqued by: Sarah Maguire
  2. 2. What is a poem? ―It is not meters, but a meter-making argument, that makes a poem—a thought so passionate and alive that, like the spirit of a plant or animal, it has an architecture of its own, and adorns nature with a new thing‖ - Ralph Waldo Emerson
  3. 3. Thus, the greatness of Ferlinghetti’s―Constantly risking absurdity‖ will beevaluated on the following criteria: Not its meter, but its ―meter making argument‖ Its passion and liveliness The originality of its architecture If it ―adorns nature with a new thing‖
  4. 4. Constantly risking absurdity Constantly risking absurdity and death whenever he performs above the heads of his audience the poet like an acrobat climbs on rime to a high wire of his own making and balancing on eyebeams above a sea of faces paces his way to the other side of the day performing entrachats and sleight-of-foot tricks and other high theatrics and all without mistaking any thing for what it may not be
  5. 5. Originality Unconventional meter Unconventional structure No rhyme Yet, appropriate for the poem’s message
  6. 6. Acrobat imagery Subject of poem ―performs/above the heads/of his audience‖ (3-5) How appropriate that poem is structured:whenever he performs above the heads of his audience The word ―he‖ is literally above the word ―heads,‖ which is literally above ―audience‖ – as a real acrobat would literally perform above the heads of his audience the poet risk writing ―above the heads/of his audience‖ – they might not understand his message(4-5).
  7. 7.  The unique indentation and choppy spacing on the poem contributes to Ferlinghetti’s attempt to convey that, like an acrobat, the poet is, ―balancing on eyebeams/above a sea of faces‖ (9-10). As an audience follows the ―entrechats/and sleight-of-foot tricks/and other high theatrics‖ of an acrobat, the poem’s reader’s eyes follow its staggered phrases unconventionally spaced across the page and his written ―sleight-of-foot tricks‖ (14-16).
  8. 8.  The structure of the poem mimics the climbing action of an acrobat in the way the phrase is broken up into lines and spaced strategically:the poet like an acrobat climbs on rime to a high wire of his own making
  9. 9.  The structure also mimics his taking of steps:before the taking of each stance or step in his supposed advance toward that still higher perch The way in which the poet uses emjambment, cutting lines off mid-phrase, reflects his climbing ―toward that still higher perch,‖ as ideas are cut off into sections and the structure resembles an various levels, like perches (24).
  10. 10.  A transition occurs midway through the poem on line 19: For he’s the super realist as ―For‖ is the first word to be capitalized since the first word of the poem, signaling a transition or development to a new idea (19).
  11. 11.  It is noted that he ―must perforce perceive/taut truth‖ to advance, ―toward that still higher perch/where Beauty stands and waits‖ (20-1, 24-5). However, though Beauty will ―start her death-defying leap,‖ he ―may or may not catch/her fair eternal form/spreadeagled in the empty air/of existence‖ (27, 30-3). o He is trying to attain beauty o He may or may not attain or ―catch‖ her
  12. 12. Yes, ―Constantly risking absurdity‖ isa great poem No conventional structure or meter, but present structure and meter best emphasize poem’s point Passion and liveliness in the thrill of risky theatrics and death-defying stunts Ideas and ―architecture‖ of poem are truly different, original, and suiting to its idea Throws out new idea:
  13. 13. To think about… Taking the ―next step‖ can be risky, but such risks are often necessary to get to ―that still higher perch‖ One ―may or may not catch‖ the ―fair eternal form‖ of who or what one seeks – so to risk so much for the change of failure can seem absurd But, one can choose an existence of always trying to reach that perch, and thus ―Constantly risking absurdity‖ in the process
  14. 14. The End

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