No-Count Sentences

In recent weeks, I’ve been reading haiku journals online and have discovered that the rest of the world has stopped counting syllables.  So, in writing my daily haiku, I’ve decided to stop too.  It’s hard, putting your fingers away after years of use, but I look more carefully at what, apart from form and convention, haiku are.

The beat poet Allen Ginsberg said he never understood haiku and preferred his own “American Sentences.”  He still counted—the sentences were supposed to be 17 syllables—but mostly he focused on the immediacy of a single observation.  In my journal, I’ve been experimenting with un-metered notions, jotting down thoughts I’d consider poetic instead of prosaic.

I’ve offered 15 prose poem-lets  below, each with its own title.  They are hardly polished or condensed—Mr. Ginsberg would disapprove—but I sometimes wonder what I sacrifice in editing.  Shortening them to 17 syllables might make them something else…

1. A THOUGHT BEFORE REALLY WAKING

The blackbird’s song holds a hole of night open and then squeezes it shut.

2. UNDER SCRUTINY

All the doors watch me, smug knowing where I’ve been.

3. THE HOTTEST DAY OF THE SUMMER SO FAR

By ten, we sweat coffee… but still can’t steer the air’s torpor.

4. DISTRACTED

The shadow of your chair: a creature tangled in mixed intentions.

5. MOMENTARY STATE OF ANXIETY

Words escaped from billboards gather outside town to shout us to silence.

6. WAITING FOR SOMEONE AT A PARK BENCH

Trees as ants see them—every road promises heaven, then splits and dwindles and splits and dwindles until it reaches an impossible shore of sky.

7. WAITING FOR SOMEONE AT A PARK BENCH (FIVE MINUTES LATER)

Maybe the trip down is better, merging until you enter the earth together and on one path.

8. STALLED CONVERSATION

You say you’ve had enough.  I can’t think of anything I’ve had enough of.

9. A. D. D.

A bird flying by a window reminds me how little I see.

10. RELIGIOUS THINKING ON THE L

Every train a little ark, all the world you might know.

11. DOZING ON THE L

As I neared sleep, I saw some graffiti-ed light inside my eyelids and thought, “Hey, who put that there?”

12. WISDOM AS A BODY

Everything has an elbow, something you can’t get near enough to know.

13. WATCHING A NATURE DOCUMENTARY ON THE SEA FLOOR

The rising puddles of air—maybe the dead are down there, hoping their voices will one day surface.

14. SUBJECTIVE OBSERVATION

Bells swing their hems, showing their asses, sounding the same note the same way to a world they assume adores them.

15. TROUBLE GETTING TO SLEEP

Why did you slip and say “Goodbye” instead of “Goodnight”?

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4 Comments

Filed under Allen Ginsberg, American Sentences, Chicago, CTA, Doubt, Experiments, Haiku, Home Life, Laments, life, Meditations, Memory, Prose Poems, Thoughts, Writing

4 responses to “No-Count Sentences

  1. Nice stuff!

    Thank you…

  2. dmarshall58

    Only after I wrote these did I realize how similar they are to the one-liners of William Matthews… which I heartily recommend.

    the mgmt.

  3. Hey, these are terrific! Thanks for leaving a link on my blog. Are you a member of Read Write Poem yet? The British haiku expert Alan Summers has been leading some good discussions and doing critiques at the haiku and micropoetry groups, and there’s a group for American sentences as well.

    I’ve never been a stickler for 5-7-5 but I do like that approximate rhythm. Your poems above, though, are more in a Western vein, I think, similar to the short poems of Antonio Machado or Yannis Ritsos’ “Monochords.”

    I’m not a member of Read Write Poem, but I will check into it now (along with reading the Ritsos I have on hand and finding Antonio Machado).

    I never know how to feel about discovering work like my own, whether I should be pleased because I’m working along the lines of respected authors or disappointed because my work is nothing new (and nothing nearly as good). Still, I can’t write without reading, and I have to believe that, ultimately, working in a writing community raises everyone’s level.

    Thanks for visiting!

  4. Pingback: Via Negativa

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