External linkConstantly Risking Absurdity, Lawrence Ferlinghetti
Ferlinghetti's poem has an uncanny resemblance to alliterative/accentual verse. Not every line of the poem is double stressed, alliterative, or syllabic. But he uses this style none-the-less to help him suspend the reader, then cast the reader's gaze over humanity from a height.
He seperates his lines not by a count of syllables, but by the amount of stresses. If one were to listen to the audience while watching a high wire act, one would notice that the audience is held in suspense by the theatrics of the performer.
The performer sways back and forth, sometimes it seems he is about to fall, and then he regains his balance, moves forward a few steps, and then sways once more. The audience responds wth surprised inhalations during the swaying and relieved exhalations after his balance is regained.
Ferlinghetti uses his strongly stressed line to begin the poems sway. The reader inhales. Then the line slides to the left side of the paper slowly as he calms down the reader by using less stressed lines. This is the poems regaining of balance and the readers exhale.
He does not have a certain number of syllables, common in syllabics, or a specific amount of primarily stressed and unstressed metrics. The trapeze artist may have planned his theatrics, but does not want the audience to be bored with the ordinary.
He realizes the hypnotic affect of suspense, and places the reader in the shoes of the trapeze artist. From the rope the reader can then see below to Ferlinghetti's "truth's of humanity."
Ferlinghetti opens the poem by saying that the poet is risking "absurdity" and"death" high above the heads of his audience. He is not saying that poets do feats of great physical prowess that threatens to cause bodily harm.
He is explaining the risks of putting one's heart into the search of the poetic. The high wire that the acrobat walks upon is the sometimes terrifying journey of self awareness that the poet undertakes to find "truth" and "beauty" in humanity.
The acrobats theatrics are the use of poetic devices to fool the audience, to show the audience and amaze them, to get there attention. He uses the acrobats constant struggle to find more daring obstacles to entertain to show how the poet must be on a continuous voyage towards "answers", and how this voyage can lead the poet into dangerous grounds.
Ferlinghetti compares the poet to "Charley Chaplin" to show the reader that the poet is not a superman but a normal humble person.
He then ends the poem by showing the reader that the acrobat may never reach an end to his search to entertain, that he will always be continually "spread-eagled in the empty air of existence."