American Sentences

Allen Ginsberg, inspired by Haiku, invented American Sentences:  one sentence, 17 syllables long.  There is a web site for American Sentences at   Ginsberg also wrote a poem consisting of all sentences – admonitions, really – of various lengths, that starts this way:

 Cosmopolitan Greetings

 Stand up against governments, against God.
Stay irresponsible.
Say only what we know & imagine.
Absolutes are Coercion.
Change is absolute.
Ordinary mind includes eternal perceptions.
Observe what’s vivid.
Notice what you notice.
Catch yourself thinking…etc.

Since I’m so used to writing Haiku, it is actually difficult for me to write a 17 syllable sentence.  That sounds ridiculous but the 5/7/5 rhythm of Haiku breaks the words into small groupings that are easier to conceptualize as one line.  One 17 syllable sentence is, well, a mouthful. 

 Here is an early attempt:

I need a dog to kill the rabbits, but then I couldn’t watch them play.

 Or, more recently:

Front yard garden can be planted in twenty minutes, weeded in ten.

 How about:

When the roofers started banging away, the cat took a flying leap.

Minot will be wiped off the face of the map from the flooding Souris.

“I’m sure they won’t eat all the dog food,” Big Dog said to the little one.

Ginsberg came up with American Sentences long before Tweets became popular.  Still, they read a little like newspaper headlines.  Long headlines.  I think I’ll stick to Haikus because they are more flexible; they lend themselves more readily to more than one thought.  And the lines can rhyme.



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