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Constantly Risking Aburdity
Andrew Kokanoutranon

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Constantly Risking Absurdity  


Lawrence Ferlinghetti


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 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 the super realist

who must perforce perceive

taut truth

before the taking of each stance or step

in his supposed advance

toward that still higher perch

where Beauty stands and waits

with gravity

to start her death-defying leap

And he

a little charleychaplin man

who may or may not catch

her fair eternal form

spreadeagled in the empty air

of existence



1. To what sort of performer is the poet compared?


The poet is a tight-rope walker and a trapeze artist


2. Name at least 3 feats of the poet/performer.


The poet/performer climbs on rimes, balances on eyebeams, and performs entrechats.


3. What picture of the poet does Ferlinghetti create by calling him a "little charleychaplin man?" Contrast this image with that of beauty in lines 25-26. What does this contrast suggest about the relationship between a poet and art? Create links to Charley Chaplin information sites or to a Charley Chaplin short feature on the web. 


Charlie Chaplin was a unusual man who said that art can be expressed in many different ways unlike the Beauty that is described in the poem. The poem suggests that there is only one universal kind of beauty, but art and poetry, on the other hand, can be expressed in countless ways.



4.  Define realist. Since super means both "above" and to "a greater degree, what two ideas about poetry does Ferlinghetti suggest when he says that the poet is a "super realist."


A realist is a down to earth and practical person. Ferlinghetti suggests that poets are good but yet not good enough for beauty.


5. Find three example of Ferlinghetti's inventiveness with language (puns, compound words, etc.) and describe the effects of each.


“Climbs on rime” is a pun, the poet writes rimes for his poems and the performer climbs and performs death-defying stunts.


“And balancing on eyebeams” is a pun because the poet writes his poems from left to right and the performers balance on rope.


“Sleight of foot tricks” is a pun because the poets write in Iambic parameters


6. What is the tone of the poem? Explain.


The writer gives off a tone of admiration for Beauty and that it is unreachable by anyone. Not even through poetry or the performers can reach it while it is standing on its high platform.


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