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American Sentence


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Explore the Craft of Writing Poetry
American Verse

The American Sentence is a concept of the legendary Beat Poet, Allen Ginsberg. It is simply a poem within 17 syllables in one line. The line should be written in complete sentence(s). It should capture a moment with a “turn”. “poets are people who notice what they notice” Allen Ginsberg

Reading Ginsberg’s work you will find that he rarely uses articles such as a, an, the. He believed eliminating unnecessary words gave his work an "immediacy".  His trademark style was to, in his words, “condense, condense, condense”. Given that quote you might think he would embrace haiku which in English is 17 syllables broken into lines, most often 5-7-5.  But he felt the line breaks reduced the poem to “counting not feeling”. Subsequently, he came up with what he called the American Sentence.

"Rainy night on Union Square, full moon. Want more poems? Wait till I’m dead."
                                                                                                      ~~Allen Ginsberg
"Four skinheads stand in the streetlight rain chatting under an umbrella."
                                                                                                     ~~Allen Ginsberg
The elements of the American Sentence are:

  1. composed in one line.
  2. syllabic, 17 syllables.
  3. condensed, written with no unnecessary words or articles.
  4. complete sentence or sentences.
  5. includes a turn or enlightenment.

    And my attempt:#1AS

    Dr. Elboim
    Famed surgeon in grey tailored suit touches my cold fingers with warm hands.
                                                                                                   ~~Judi Van Gorder

    (Note: After having written so many haiku, when I initially read about the American Sentence, I thought, this is just a haiku without the line breaks.  To my surprise, after researching and reading about the form, I found myself writing an American Sentence from a totally different perspective than the haiku.  I wrote my American Sentence from an emotional space rather than the objective observational space I write my haiku.)  

~~ © ~~ Poems by Judi Van Gorder ~~

For permission to use this work you can write to Tinker1111@icloud.com

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