American Sentence poetry form
American Sentence: Invented by Allen Ginsberg.
An American haiku variation. 17 syllables written in a sentence.
In a series:
James and Basketball
James plays basketball with cough and red cheeks activating asthma.
Grounded from playground basketball, he sees ball fall through hoop in his mind.
He watched beloved Trailblazers on television from his bed.
He calls Grandpa to discuss the game as both keep scores, critique players.
In his yard the hoop net droops waiting for him to play, to take his shot.
The Lightening Whitening Crone
My hairdresser calls my blonde/gray/white hair “dowdy” as she layers hair.
To cover thinning bald spots she poofs and puffs my crown which will whiten.
When too long, my hair hangs limp and will not turn under; fine strands just fall.
No Rogaine or woven weaves, wigs will not work for me, so I endure.
I forget about getting haircuts until bangs appear near eyebrows.
When grading or writing I like to see the page un-fringed and clearly.
My hairdresser knows she will see me when I’m teaching and need light head.
My Thanks to Linda Varsell Smith for her contributions above.
So, the qualities of such a sentence? Like most other good poetry it should be Imagistic, with that gap of meaning between the writer and the reader; ie: phenomenology. Some kind of juxtaposition helps create a tension. For example:
1.19 — Get it in your mouth, not sure if you should swallow or not — oyster.
1.24 — The look on RR’s dream face when the army crushes a piano.
2.09 — Steve’s Civil Service motto: Why work for an asshole when you can be one?
3.04 — After I got her email, I pulled the extra pillow from my bed.
4.05 — They want a stool sample, what a load of crap! No Pop, it’s just a smidge.
4.05 — The sign at dairy queen says: New Flamethrower Chicken Now Hiring.
4.08 — Tell Richard I’m laying off women — he says You gonna wear the patch?
4.18 — Each from our respective cars watching her tennis game, the ex- & I.
5.16 — Ma before the Wednesday pillbox — Cholesterol or Tranquilizer?
7.03 — Hour’s wages shot up in three sparkly minutes — Happy Independence Day!
7.04 — Cat corpse on sidewalk, rabbit corpse on the bike trail — Happy Independence Day!
7.26 — I told you I don’t have time on my phone, that’s why I keep hangin’ up on you!
7.31 — Sign of age? She puts on vanilla perfume, I wonder who’s got cake.
8.27 — If you can crawl out your chair to get on her man, you can take a beatin’.
9.07 — That’s an experience I’ve never had he says, nose full of menstrual blood.
9.08 — Good thing I cleaned the kitchen floor shiny target on which the cat could urp.
10.02 — At the spot where my car was totaled, five years later, a traffic circle.
11.05 — Distracted, I can’t get by the cat urp before it becomes a hot lunch.
11.16 — Post Traumatic Stress Disorder at Lowe’s — Rotorwash of ceiling fans.
11.17 — This piece of free-range chicken may be live, would taste better w/ floor dirt.
11.20 — On the beach he skidded to a stop & then someone sucked out his heart.
11.27 — Yesterday doctors gave Dick Cheney shock treatment on the wrong organ.
12.19 — His T-shirt said: Vegetarian is Indian for Bad Hunter.
These poems are all from 2007, and we can see several categories. There are cat poems on July 4, September 8, November 5 and on November 17, the poem was written from a cat’s perspective. Found poems are entirely transcribed, or set up in the poem, from January 19, February 9, April 5, July 26, August 27 and December 19. Some poems are from dreams (my daughter Rebecca Rose is often called RR to save a syllable) and some are from relationships. (That has been a rich source of sentences over the past 8 years.)
The key comes from a Ginsberg notion, poets are people who notice what they notice. This is a mindfulness exercise and, the more aware you can be, the better the poems. They do reflect the play of the intellect, so a dull mind will create especially dull poems, but at least they’ll be short! In seventeen syllables there is enough room for rhythm and word music. Dig that line, rotor wash of ceiling fans.Dactyllic meter if you’re scoring. You can find other examples above.
Avoiding some of the rules of grammar, such as the poem September 8, also add a nice effect and just enough busted syntax so not as to obscure meaning, but be another Ginsberg Mind Writing Slogan,Maximum information, minimum number of syllables. (Condensing.) Ginsberg also comes from the William Carlos Williams school of using demotic speech, so the found sentence of July 26 provides a good example of that, as does use of the word urp.
Pasted from http://globalvoicesradio.org/American_Sentences_Workshop_Handout.html
Single line poem of 17 Syllables invented by Allen Ginsberg
May be titled or not.
May be in series, but USUALLY is not.
Class Act (Form: American Sentence)
Pants hanging below their hips. Gotta be a trick; hidden suspenders?