The American Sentence


It’s just plain easy to write one sentence, yes?  That’s all we have to do, isn’t it? Write one sentence and then another and yet another – and we have a prose poem, a short story, a novel.  

Allen Ginsberg, ( June 3, 1926- April 5, 1997) -- a leading poet of the Beat Generation and author of Howl was inspired by the Japanese haiku—three lines of traditionally 5-7-5 syllables – invented the “American Sentence” – a single sentence of 17 syllables. What he did was add 5 + 7 + 5 and created this form. Ginsberg died on April 5, 1997. We honor here his contribution to American literature. 

My Survey of American Literature class loved finding American Sentences buried in stories.  They made a collection of these sentences – and this little treasure hunt resulted in their paying close attention to the text.  

Here are some of Ginsberg’s American Sentences:

 Crescent moon, girls chatter at twilight on the bus ride to Ankara. - Allen Ginsberg - June 1990

Put on my tie in a taxi, short of  breath, rushing to meditate.
- Allen Ginsberg - November 1991

That grey-haired man in business suit and black turtleneck thinks he's still young.
- Allen Ginsberg - December 19, 1992

Prompt:  Write 5 American Sentences (it’s April 5, after all) – or however many sentences you choose.  

See, in particular Ginsberg’s official website -- http://allenginsberg.org