Sunday, January 19, 2014

Carpe Diem's "Little Ones" #9, American Sentence (also 17 syllables)


Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

I am a bit late with this new episode of our Little Ones feature, the feature in which I challenge you to think "out of the haiku-box" by writing other short poems as for example 'cinquain', 'villanelle' or 'tanka'.
This episode is inspired on the posts by Bjorn Rudberg of Bjorn Rudberg's Writings for this month's Carpe Diem in which we are on a journey straight through the (former) Soviet Union. He writes an every day haibun followed by a so called "American Sentence". I had never heard about that poetry form, but as I read the first posts by Bjorn ... I started to like those "American Sentences" ... that's the reason why I have chosen for this theme for this episode of our special feature "Little Ones".

Let me tell you something more about this so called "American Sentences".
Bjorn Rudberg recently introduced me to American Sentences, a poetic form developed by Allen Ginsberg in the mid-1980′s as a response to the haiku.  If haiku involved seventeen syllables down the page, he reasoned, American Sentences would be seventeen syllables across the page–an attempt to more accurately “Americanize” a form that had previously translated only roughly across the Pacific into the context of American poetry.

Like (rough) English approximations of the haiku, American Sentences work closely with concision of line and sharpness of detail.  Unlike its literary predecessor, however, it is compressed into a single line of poetry and included a reference to a month and year (or alternatively, a location) rather than a season.
An few examples by Allen Ginsberg:
Four skinheads stand in the streetlight rain chatting under an umbrella.
Or this one:
Put my tie on in a taxi, short of breath, rushing to meditate

And what to think of this example written by Bjorn Rudberg for the Irkutsk prompt at our Carpe Diem Haiku Kai weblog:
The wonders of a city threatens, as its viewed from a compartment
I think this isn't an easy poetry form, but they say "if you can write haiku, than you can write an American Sentence too". Well ... we will see ...

Here is my attempt, I have chosen to use a old haiku of myself to write this first American Sentence ever.
This the haiku which I used:

such a hot day
my shadow needs  to cool down
under the willow
I 'revised' this one into a American Sentence by changing it a little bit:
Such a bloody hot day, my shadow needs to cool down under the willow
This isn't a great one I know, but I am looking forward to your inspired American Sentence. I think this is a poetry-form which will not become my 'cup-of-tea', but ... you never know ...
This episode of Carpe Diem's "Little Ones", is NOW OPEN for your submissions and will stay open until February 3th 11.59 AM (CET) and I will try to post our new episode of "Little Ones" that same day.


  1. Very, very difficult. Well done. I don't know how Bjorn does them!

  2. Tricky. Nature seems to have morphed to an urban environment and the person is more present. They seem to be more like senryu...

  3. Hi.. I will put one out here shortly.. I think the important thing I bring from haiku is to capture a scene. Also the element of juxtaposition (often without a cutting word) to get an element of surprise is what I do... and yes sometimes a level of grittiness helps..