Poem Analysis: “Constantly Risking Absurdity”, by Lawrence Ferlinghetti
The poem, “Constantly Risking Absurdity”, by Lawrence Ferlinghetti is a representation of a poet’s quest to search for the truth and the aspect of nobility. Accordingly, the aim of the poem was to ensure that the art of poetry bears more understanding for any person. Since its entire structure constitutes a free verse, the poem largely exhibits the attribute of irrationality. Due to the lack of punctuation after the end of each line, the poem’s flow is akin to the poet’s stream of consciousness. Furthermore, the poem rejects the standards and attributes present in traditional poems based on its possession of irregular stanzas or meters and the presence of enjambment in every verse. Despite such aspects, the poet seems to ‘constantly risking absurdity’ because he is attempting to make his composition into a work that the average individual can comprehend, even if it means risking his life or sanity in order to achieve the intended objective.
Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s “Constantly Risking Absurdity” possesses numerous attributes that clearly exhibit a significant correlation between exclusiveness and apparent illogicality. From the opening verse, the poem exhibits its irrationality by exuding a unique correlation towards an accentual verse (Fontane 106). Even though the lines are not necessarily alliterative, the poet implements the respective style in order to show the reader that he is willing to risk absurdity for a particular purpose. In addition to this, the poem’s structure possesses a schema that is rather different from the attributes evident in traditional poetic frameworks. For instance, the lack of punctuation and the evidence of irregular stanzas and meters enable the poet to present the poem as a single thought that runs from the beginning to the conclusion of the stanza (Fontane 106). The presentation of the poem as a single thought is an illustration of his stream of consciousness, which exhibits the creator’s perspectives, reflections, thoughts, and viewpoints on the writing and development of poetry (Fontane 106).
Apart from the illogical and unique nature of the poem’s structure, the implementation of particular literary devices within the poem shows the way through which the poet manages to consistently risk absurdity. This is evidenced considerably by his representation of the trapeze artist and the stunt that he is attempting to commit above the heads of his audience (Fontane 107). More specifically, with the implementation of a metaphor, the poem clearly depicts the way a poet risks absurdity in an effort to find his or her meaning. By using the character of the trapeze artist walking across a high wire, it is evident that the author was attempting to provide a representation of the extent to which the poet tries to find meaning and connotation by engaging in activities or tasks that may exhibit unintended consequences (Fontane 107). Simply, the efforts or tries that the poet implements in respect to writing poetry are significantly similar to the attempts that the trapeze artist is implementing by walking on the tight wire.
Aside from the use of the trapeze artist and his efforts on the high wire as a metaphor, the poet also shows how he is constantly risking absurdity by utilizing similes (Fontane 107). This is based on the way he likens himself to an acrobat (Fontane 107). The respective poem depicts the protagonist as an acrobat in the circus who commonly risks death in order to perform. He utilizes his arms in order to gain stability (Fontane 108). The actions that the acrobat implements in order to maintain balance are akin to the way the poet utilizes his pen while writing his poetry (Fontane 108). Additionally, the circus acrobat is responsible for making the wire that he applies in his performances. Hence, if his performance is flawed depending on the props that he implements, then he will likely die (Fontane 108). Despite this, he desires to amuse his spectators as well as depict the practice, talent, and awe of an exquisite performance. The same perspectives can also be likened to the poet who risks sounding like an insane person when he engages in the creation of a poem.
The poet’s search for meaning also influences his need to consistently risk absurdity. Throughout the poem, he is attempting to search for the reason of his work, which comprises Beauty (Fontane 108). In this sense, the poet represents himself in the structure of the acrobat. Similar to the latter, the poet must ensure that he employs rationality in order to see the hard truth while writing each line while risking his ‘demise’ (Fontane 108). The poet, similar to the acrobat, is looking for his end objective, which comprises Beauty. However, in this case, the objective does not involve a person (Fontane 108). Rather it constitutes a goal that influences the poet and the acrobat to strive in order to achieve it. Hence, in a manner similar to the acrobat, the poet tries to exhibit the beauty of the work that he has created depending on the word or the thought that he applies.
To this end, the
poem, “Constantly Risking Absurdity”, by Lawrence Ferlinghetti shows the extent
to which the poet ‘constantly risks absurdity’ based on its structure and the
literary devices. In terms of the structure, the poem disinclines from the
conventional structure in an effort to entertain the audience by using
irregular meters and absent punctuation. Consequently, the poem utilizes
literary devices, specifically metaphor and simile, in order to depict the
manner in which the poet, similar to the acrobat, risks absurdity in an effort
to find beauty and ultimately please his audience.
Fontane, M. A. “Ferlinghetti’s Constantly Risking Absurdity.” The Explicator, vol. 59, 2001, 106-108.