Saturday, March 15, 2008

Literary Interlude: Constantly Risking Absurdity

I was excited to learn that there's going to be a 50th anniversary edition of Coney Island of the Mind by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. It boggles the mind to think he published the volume before I was born and it still speaks to us. When I went hunting for one of my favorite poems.... I lost my copy of the book when I lent it to one of my students. That'll learn me. Anyway, it's solidly in the middle of the top 500 poems requested on the poetry website. I know that this is not the originial structure, which is a shame, because it is more important here than most. Guess I'll be buying another copy.

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

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

Lawrence Ferlinghetti

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