reading the American Sentence
November 5, 2015
Allen Ginsberg envisioned an “American haiku,” a 17-syllable poem that he called the American Sentence. In her section on American Sentences in Ordinary Genius: A Guide for the Poet Within, Kim Addonizio says, “What interests me is how a short sentence can have all the qualities of a poem — a quick, perfectly executed brushstroke that surprises and delights, that’s full of mystery and meaning, and set to a rhythm that sings.” She adds, “What’s key here is the moment sharply observed, a brief ‘aha!’ of pleasure or recognition or awareness.”
Paul Nelson, best known on these pages as the instigator and chief wrangler of the Cascadia Poetry Festival and the August Poetry Postcard Fest, experienced his own “aha!” when he read Ginsberg’s book Cosmopolitan Greetings. On January 1, 2001, he initiated a practice of writing an American Sentence every day. Choosing the best from the resulting collection of more than five thousand, Apprentice House Press has now published a book by Paul Nelson, American Sentences.