Pulling out a college critique, remembering and loving what I learned, and willing to share this one because it's so fun. I'm sure I haven't "caught" everything in this poem, and I'd love to hear your comments on it below. But here's what I came up with as a poetry writing student. Comments in brackets are more recent additions of thought.
"Constantly Risking Absurdity" by Lawrence Ferlinghetti is a fabulously crafted poem comparing a poet to an acrobat. I love this comparison! This poet risks "absurdity" by breaking traditional expectations of a poem. He risks death of his writing career if his poetry is not caught by his reader--just as the high wire acrobat risks certain death if she is not caught by the "little charleychaplin man" (29).
I love Ferlinghetti's choices of words. [He plays with sounds, consonants ("constantly risking absurdity," 1, "balancing on eyebeams," 9), and vowels ("like...climbs...rime...high wire," 6-8), sometimes with alliteration ("perforce perceive," 20, "taut truth," 21, "fair...form," 31), sometimes with internal rhyme ("climbs on rime," 7). He combines words or separates them out, to make his own point, or just to show off: "any thing" (17), "charleychaplin" (29), "spreadeagled" (32).] He chooses the unfamiliar spelling of rhyme/rime (7) [which may intensify his risk taking since "rime" most often means an icy coating, leaving his "high wire" slippery and dangerous]. Ferlinghetti thus "climbs...to a high wire of his own making" (7,8) as the creator of this poem.
He is a [super] "realist" (19) needing to express an accurate, concrete representation which he "by force of his circumstances" (Webster, "perforce," from line 20) "understands through his senses" (Webster, "perceives," also line 20). Nims's textbook on writing poetry teaches the concept of using concrete images (Western Wind, 4), which seems to be exactly what Ferlinghetti is trying to communicate the importance of. ["Super" could mean he's a fabulous realist (wonderful poet), or perhaps, that he is above or beyond realism: Ferlinghetti was an advocate of surrealism.]
I love all of the poetic "entrechats" (13) and how Ferlinghetti accomplishes these great stunts without compromising the clarity of his poem (16-18). He has carefully placed each word just as an acrobat would selectively place each "stance or step" (22). I, as the reader, am sort of the "little charleychaplin man" (29) who has caught the "Beauty" (25) of this poem and absolutely fallen in love with it!
Ferlinghetti's chosen "form" (31) reinforces the risk of absurdity that is depicted in the content of this poem. He has chosen to use an absurd layout [not always accurately depicted on online versions, the lines of the poem were intentionally started at varying points across the page]--totally nontraditional and unconventional--and he forsakes the customary principles of punctuation and capitalization as well.
Yet his writing is "taut" (21)--tightly woven and "marked by economy of structure and detail" (Webster, "taut"). [He has created his lines--"a high wire of his own making" (8)--and he must across it.]
In my opinion, Ferlinghetti defied death with this poem...and won, poetically speaking.
"above the heads/ of his audience" (4,5)
"climbs on rime" (7) rime/rhyme
"sleight-of-foot" (14) foot/meter
["supposed advance" (23)]
"with gravity" (26)
["fair eternal form" (31)]
[Other critiques or analyses that I found interesting are here, here, here and here.]
Question: Some have wondered, does he mean that Beauty is on a higher perch that Truth, more important? [To me, Truth seems to be the rope, what he's crafted/written; The poet seems to be an acrobat performing alongside Beauty.]
[Question: Did Ferlinghetti have a Beauty that performed alongside him, perhaps another poet whom he loved?]
[Question: What does "to the other side of day" mean (12)? Does this go with "death-defying" (27) or is it different?]