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English Essay Examining Constantly Risking Absurdity by Lawrence Ferlinghetti


Task: Examine the poem “Constantly Risking Absurdity” by 20th century American poet, Lawrence Ferlinghetti — available on p.71 of your prescribed Kane, Byrne and Scheepers (2006) textbook, and reprinted below. Answer the essay question: Write an academic English essay (approximately 1 200 and 1 500 words) in which you analyze and discuss the ways in which Ferlinghetti’s poem “Constantly Risking Absurdity” uses descriptive and figurative language to emphasize the complex relationship between a poet and his/her literary creations.

Make sure that you draw on relevant arguments from at least three credible academic sources to help support your answer. These could be from your prescribed theory textbooks (Horne & Heinemann, 2014; and Kane, Byrne & Scheepers, 2006) and/or any relevant critical readings you have identified in your research for this assignment. Remember to reference all sources accurately both in text and within a final reference list according to the Harvard method.


The current English essay is based on “Constantly Risking Absurdity” that was first published by the American poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti in his A Coney Island of the Mind 1958 collection. The poet is compared to an acrobat by the poem that is supposed to exercise dangerous, difficult, and in case of failure probably humiliating tricks to mesmerize the audience. The poem suggests that only through risking failure can the poet have a chance over capturing something which is not just true and beautiful but something which will last a very tough and long time. In this English essay, there will be an analysis and discussion of the ways of using descriptive and figurative language in the Constantly Risking Absurdity by Ferlinghetti to lay emphasis on the multifacetedrelationship between the poet and the literary creations. Furthermore, to support the answer, relevant arguments have been drawn from three credible academic sources based on the theory books that have been prescribed for the research of assignment.

"Constantly Risking Absurdity" use descriptive and figurative language
There is an uncanny resemblance to the accentual verse in Ferlinghetti’s poem Constantly Risking Absurdity. This kind of accentual and alliterative verse is seen in most poems from European country’s ancient text like Beowulf. This verse splits line into equal halves which utilizes the equal proportion of stress rhythm individually and also uses comparable consonants sounds for every line. According to Jamie Lee Hamann(2017),he argues that in the poem of Ferlinghetti, every line is not syllabic, double stressed, or alliterative. But this style is used by him to defer the reader and shed the reader's observance of humankindfrom a stature.The poet separates the line through the stresses amount and not by the syllables count where the poem plunges into the authority of accentual or alliterative. If the audience could be listened to while watching the act of high wire it would be noticed that the audience was apprehended by suspense throughout by the performer's theatrics.The performer is seen swaying backwards and forwards, also from time to time it is noticed he is about to descend but somehow manages to retrieves his balance, proceeds a few steps forward, and swings again.This gets a surprising response from the audience during swaying and while the balance is regained there are exhalations of relief. There is no particular number of syllables, stressed metrics, or common syllabics there might have been planning of theatrics by the trapeze artist but he didn’t seem to make the audience bored by the ordinary. The poet comprehends the hypnotic suspense impact where he emplacesthe reader in Trapeze artist’s position which lets them see down to truths of humanity by Ferlinghetti. According to Kane, Byrne, and Scheepers(2013), they argue that the poem seems different to them than any other poem they have read so far. The laying out of the lines in the poem is unusual than how it generally is supposed to be. Generally, the presentation of a poem of lines is distinct from prose, in a poem the lines start from the page's left margin which means a poet can control the beginning and end of a line that expresses his thought. The line starts and ends in diverse places crosswise the page in the poem Constantly Risking Absurdity where the gaps between them visualize steps.The poem has another prominent feature of not having any punctuations throughout which makes it difficult to divide them into sentences. The most vital image in this poem is imaging the poet like an acrobat. The primary aspect of contrast becomes the use of body by the acrobat for the performancewhereas the poet uses his mind which makes the poet and an acrobat different from each other. Looking at the similarity it can be seen that they both are artists and they are interrelated through performance and the need of the audience. Both the poet and an acrobat are great risk takers which the title of the poem suggests. While balancing on a high wire, an acrobat risks severe injuries or death, and a poet risks looking ludicrous(Baldwin, 2019). As the poem suggests there is something to be defeated always, whenever a poet sit down to write. The acrobat balances on the high wirefar above the audience and as per the poem, a poet mount up on rhyme and stabilizes on eyebeam, the term eyebeam is not an English word but is made by the poet for his poem whose meaning has to be explored by the readers through imagination. A poet progresses just like an acrobat walks across a high wire or tightrope. The poet perceives taut truth as he moves towards the tightrope on the way to grasp the beauty. The idea that being a super realist and perceiving reality accurately is a must for a poet to catch beauty goes against the common ideas of the fantastical dreamers or poets who are often at a span with the reality or who spins the untruths in poems. It goes closer in reference to the haiku poets who believe in directly confronting the true nature if they want to write successfully regarding the same.

As per Bronsted(2013), the representation by Lawrence Ferlinghetti of the poem“Constantly Risking Absurdity” is to search for nobility and truth and the aim was to ensure the poetry's art bears more understanding for people. The poem exhibits the characteristic of irrationality as the entire structure consists of free verse. However, after the end of every line the lack of punctuation the flow of the poem is similar to the stream of consciousness of the poet. This poem possesses various characteristics which exhibit a major correlation amongst the apparent illogicality and exclusiveness. The search of the poet for meaning influences his requirements to constantly risking absurdity(Rosa, 2018). In a broader sense, his attempt throughout the poem is to search for a meaningful reason for his work which includes Beauty in which he represents himself as an acrobat. The poet must also ensure he utilizes rationality to see the tough reality while writing every line where he risks demise. The poet who in similarity to acrobat seeks his end target comprising of beauty, but in this case, the end objective is not a person but an objective that influences the acrobat and poet to struggle to acquire it. Therefore, the poet similar to the acrobat tries to demonstrate the beauty of the effort he formed depending on the thought or word that he utilizes.

In conclusion, it can be said that the essay represents a clear and in-depth analysis of how the poem “Constantly Risking Absurdity” by Lawrence Ferlinghetti uses figurative and descriptive language to lay emphasis on the multifacetedconnection between the poet and his literary sources.Relevant arguments have been drawn from various credible sources to support the answer.The poem demonstrates the extent to which the poet can constantly risk absurdity based on its literary devices and structure. Further, it has been observed that every line in Ferlinghetti's poem isn't syllabic, double-stressed, or alliterative. However, he used this approach to defer the reader and shed the reader's observation of humanity from a high vantage point. It is also argued that the poem is different than other poems and the laying out of the poem lines is unusual than how it is generally. The fundamental point of comparison is that the acrobat performs with his body, whereas the poet performs with his intellect, which distinguishes the poet from the acrobat. Looking at the similarities, it's clear that they're both artists who are linked by performance and the need for an audience. The poet and the acrobat are both huge risk-takers, as the poem's title suggests.

Baldwin, P. (2019). Types of Descriptive or Figurative Language. [online] The Classroom | Empowering Students in Their College Journey. Available at: [Accessed 30 Sep. 2021]. Bronsted, J.C. (2013). Constantly Risking Absurdity - You have to read very carefully. [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 Sep. 2021].
Jamie Lee Hamann (2017). An Analysis of Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s “Constantly Risking Absurdity (#15).” [online] Owlcation. Available at: [Accessed 30 Sep. 2021].
Kane, G., Byrne, D. and Scheepers, R. (2013). Introduction to English Literary Studies. English essay[online] gimmenotes. Available at: [Accessed 30 Sep. 2021].
Rosa, R. dela (2018). The Reading-Writing Connection Is Much Stronger in One Direction Than the Other. [online] Psychreg. Available at: [Accessed 30 Sep. 2021].


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