The American Sentence – a practice in poetry

“Four skinheads stand in the streetlight rain chatting under an umbrella.” This is an American Sentence. Take another example: “Rainy night on Union square, full moon. Want more poems? Wait till I’m dead.” These, written by Allen Ginsburg, are the example of when the haiku goes American. Allen Ginsburg, often noted for the poem Howl and his Beat poems and associations, was a master of the juxtaposed image. These sentences are a great exercise to start up your poetry. 

The form is very simple. No line breaks, but there are seventeen syllables, just like a haiku. The idea is to use brevity to your advantage, and find outstanding and outlandish images to use in the small poem. The point is also to make it completely American in its taste and in its urban call to arms. 

Try a few for yourself. Here are a few more examples.

At the spot where my car was totaled, five years later, a traffic circle.

On the beach he skidded to a stop & then someone sucked out his heart.

Steve’s Civil Service motto: Why work for an asshole when you can be one?

Happy writing!

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