A word about Ginsberg’s American Sentences. Allen Ginsberg said, “What’s key here is the moment sharply observed, a brief “aha!” of pleasure or recognition or awareness.” The form is restricted to 17-syllables.
Poetic Form: Allen Ginsberg’s “American Sentence” 17-syllables
28.07The clipped wings of prayers still rise through the morning mist and falling raindrops.
05.07You can’t deliver dead flowers to a woman whose husband just died.
06.07A fine-haired brush swept the sky – it’s a dark painting that’s dying to flood.
07.02The icy wind peels out of the north, sharp as a twig in the eye.
04.10My black cotton ankle socks that don’t slip or twist, they’re a dull loved thing.
10.09I’ve forgotten the sound of my father’s voice. Gone, with leaves on water.
16.09Her broken whispers were so close to earth that I imagined bluebells.
16.09I gave her flowers as she rode into the stars. Couldn’t help smiling.
06.08Cows under the oak tree. Grass cool as a spring day. It feels like Sunday.
02.04There’s eternity in waves, as constant as a clock that never stops.
15.03I’m up for a bit of turmoil, like feeding paper to a pen
06.11It was a lifetime, bagged and boxed, rehoused, and given to charity.
05.11I apologise for not raking up the leaves as fast as they fall.
26.07The wheat and oats, they danced with the breeze, and swayed like the soul of music.
13.03Stood on a muddy track, umbrella in hand. A moody slash of rain.
13.03He is someone dead, who I once loved, and my heart’s still a slash of rain.
13.03You’re out on flattened water. Fishing. As rain slashes at my window.
13.03Saw a sculpture. Looked like wizard fingers. Or a seahorse. Rain does that.
06.03Hung fat balls from the apple tree. Incoming. An avalanche of birds.
01.03I drift like hard grey snow, blowing up the street. Lost to cold company.
07.11Bless that little boy whose smile warms November.
03.6He has a hoe in his hand, tears at weeds with enjambement wrist movement.
30.5I knew that menu inside out. Drank coffee, while Dad fished in the rain.
18.5Sandbags against the wall, sagging, like tired ears that have heard too much.
18.5Her heart is a watch’s tick. His words are lyrics to delicate ears.
09.5You do seem taller than I remember; maybe your hair is shorter.
03.5Given one extra degree of freedom, we oscillate, and are lost.
02.5Found my watch in my coat pocket with memories. Driftwood and tide pools.
01.5 Gardening with a prophet’s eye. Cut. Dead and done. Tending secret green.
30.4 We ran everywhere, and wore elastic bands to keep our knee-highs up.
29.4 Five thousand kilometres from red beetles gnawing my lilies.
28.4 Thumping rhythms of a long-blade knife; drowning in floods. Chopped onions.
27.4 My mum, she’d rant at those ants, those pests that rambled up and out of cracks.
26.4 Morning is a troubled slumber. Light – cold as water. Skies – creamy blue.
26.4 Crows on the verge. Cars on the road. Hank Williams sings from the radio.
23.4 She doesn’t like it, the dead buried in churchyards. She’s superstitious.
22.4 No, there are no fairies, I say, and she says, okay, what about gnomes.
21.4 It’s our sense of the place. Kneeling in grass. Sitting in a red wagon.
19.4 Under the Washington monument, we fed sparrows. And ate hotdogs.
18.4 Her many years showed in her kindly face, like creamy wrinkled linen.
17.4 She had grand dreams and tiny feet, and she danced light as the falling snow.
13.1 Here we sit because four times around the block is one time too many.
12.4 The horizon is thin filmed smoke. Weak tea. Land breaks the Atlantic blue.
09.4 In the trees maybe, or up in the clouds. A goose barks at a black dog.
07.4 Any other day, I would’ve stayed. Watched clouds crest. Spill. But where’s the love.
06.4 Morning traffic sings its own sounds. Black birds steal the day with a song.
06.4 I am singing songs in my head, and I don’t hear a thing that he says.
05.4 Golden koy. Diamond sunlight gilts your tail. You’re an alchemist’s trick.
05.4 Breathe in drink, diamond sunlight chases your wake. It’s a sorcerer’s trick.
04.4 There’s a dove in the road. It’s shivering like a winter stream, soon dead.
04.4 The rain settled. Washed the soot. The stones. And a robin’s egg on the ground.
03.4 A yellow pencil, rubber worn to its rim of tin. Sharp. Keep it sharp.
02.4 Pull the waves, tame the Thames. Hoots of horns, and church bells ring. Pull, pull, boys, row.
01.4 His spindled frame slumped. A second stroke. Medics rushed to his birthday lunch.
01.4 Muscle memory is a cigarette after dinner. Ten years quit.
01.4 You were in my suitcase. An old boarding pass. It was the year you died.
Notes: Begin with whatever is in your immediate environment, and then expand into memory, into ideas, to see what comes up. After that, change your work space. Get up and look out the window, or take a walk and jot down notes about what you see. Then revise your American Sentences so that they sound both specific and musical. You can do this exercise every time you begin to write. It’s a good warm-up, like playing musical scales. Sometimes, you can reorganize sentences from the many you’ve written, combine them, and end up with an interesting poem.”
updated 10 January 2022. ©️ Misky 2016-2022