Thursday, April 3

Posted by Laurel Garver on Thursday, April 03, 2014 18 comments
By Lawrence Ferlinghetti (1919 —)

Photo by Quinn Dombrowski, wikimedia commons

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 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

This piece is what's called ars poetica, "art of poetry," a poem that explores the nature poetry as an art. Here Ferlinghetti compares a poet to a tightrope circus performer or one of the fearless welders who assembles the beams in high rises.

The way the lines are precariously balanced on the page further reinforces the ideas Ferlinghetti is exploring, visually recreating the balance pole tightrope walkers use.

What lines or images strike you?

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  1. For some reason I read this one with imaginary bongos and snapping of fingers. Great post.

    Brandon Ax: Writer's Storm

    1. You've heard Ferlinghetti's name and know he's a key figure in the Beat movement from mid-20th c. He and Ginsberg inspired the sorts of beatnik soirees you describe.

  2. balancing on eyebeams above a sea of faces

    Great poem.

    It's been ages and ages since I've read or heard any one mention Ferlinghetti. I didn't even know he was still alive!

    1. I was likewise shocked by that fact when researching his dates. An elder beatnik statesman! Yes, "eyebeams" is such a great play on words, isn't it?

  3. Visiting on day 3 of the #atozchallenge with all my fellow writers. I appreciate all the hard work it takes to participate. I hope you make many new blogging friends. Your 'about me' sidebar is one of the best I've read, instantly interested in what you might have to say about things because of relating to YOU. Therefore, the first book I am going to buy. (I hope this happens for me) I'm very selective on following blogs, but looking forward to reading yours. Many thanks for a blog worth paying attention to.

    1. Thank you so much, Stepheny. I'm honored! I entered this blogging festival with trepidation because I DO want to get out and meet oodles of people, but not neglect my family, writing or health. It's been wonderfully fun and connecting so far!

  4. "the poet like an acrobat
    climbs on rime
    to a high wire of his own making"

    I love this!

    1. Not only is the soundplay catchy, but he makes poetry writing seem so extravagantly dangerous and thrilling. Thanks for coming by!

  5. This is a great poem, Laurel, thank you. It's nice to have met you here on the A-Z :)

    1. It's an old fave from my undergrad days. Glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for visiting!

  6. Replies
    1. Thanks, Shyam. I have a soft spot for the Beats--they helped me understand how fiery poetry can be.

  7. Probably it's similarity to life in general.

    1. Life as great balancing act, building out own bridges to where we wish to go. True, that. Thanks for coming by!

  8. spreadeagled in the empty air
    of existence

    yep - three for three - I'm liking your mind!

    1. Woo hoo. I rarely go three for three with anything. Especially athletic things. LOL.

  9. I loved the placement of the lines, it made it feel more like balancing on a tight rope and enhancing the poems overall experience. Great blog!

  10. Ah, I love this one, and I had forgotten about it until I re-read it. I enjoy the placement of the lines and the rhythm of the words.