The American Sentence

For Prompted Positive Poetry   Hello everyone. It is good to see you all. You realize of course you do not have to do the prompt; however, this is one of my favorite poetic forms. You will discover that I prefer brief, uncomplicated forms. I was taught how to write haiku when I was 11 by a professor of Asian studies at Duke University. I quickly became addicted to the brief Japanese forms and have been writing them for 50 years. In 1963, Allen Ginsberg created a take on the classic haiku: The American Sentence. The rules are simple: Exactly 17 syllables in a complete sentence form. And one sentence, not a multiple of them. That is it. Somehow Ginsberg could not follow the rules for classic haiku – always the rebel! Like me, Ginsberg was a great admirer of Ezra Pound who wrote the iconic:
In the Station of the Metro
The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.

I love the American Sentence. It is like distilling the essence of a thought. Cutting down the scene, thought, image to the barest of words. However the sentence can bring you joy, break your heart, give you a new vision of nature, make you laugh out loud. I often work harder on an AS to get the right words that I ever do one of my longer poems. After all, it is exactly 17 syllables. You have to edit and be careful to give the exact meaning to my words. I hope you will try this form! Below are some samples of my American Sentences and of Allen Ginsberg.

Spring returns with a canopy of blue overhead – the vernal sky.
Even after death, you are still my anchor in sad stormy weather.
In the summer sky, bits of sand light the night sky.
The mockingbird sings at night to the music of the honeysuckle.

Allen Ginsberg:
Crescent moon, girls chatter at twilight on the bus ride to Ankara.
Taxi ghosts at dusk pass Monoprix in Paris 20 years ago.
That grey-haired man in business suit and black turtleneck thinks he’s still young.

7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Frank J. Tassone
    May 12, 2020 @ 17:44:14

    Reblogged this on Frank J. Tassone and commented:
    #Haiku Happenings #5: Toni Spencer’s latest #AmericanSentences!


  2. Misky
    May 13, 2020 @ 07:19:07

    It’s one of my favourite forms, also. I had a play with a Found piece I’ve been tinkering with.


    • kanzensakura
      May 13, 2020 @ 12:22:22

      I like this. While it is not an AS, I do like it as a unique short form. The sentence is one complete sentence of exactly 17 syllables. But I really do like this short poem a lot!

      Sent from Outlook Mobile



      • Misky
        May 14, 2020 @ 06:07:46

        I could’ve used a semicolon after the second phrase, and then made it “we sit and stare” but it didn’t flow right so … I didn’t. .. c’est la vie.


        • kanzensakura
          May 14, 2020 @ 06:34:10

          Yeppers. That is one of the reasons when I write one, it takes me so long, editing it until I get it “right”. It is a deceptively hard form.

          Sent from Outlook Mobile



  3. Jay Bleu
    May 13, 2020 @ 08:03:24

    This is great! I never heard of this before, but want to try!


    • kanzensakura
      May 13, 2020 @ 12:19:37

      I think you will enjoy. The AS can take on the personality of the writer as well. And it cuts down on the “telegram” talk people tend to use in haiku as well.

      Sent from Outlook Mobile



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