Friday, April 13, 2012

Introducing American Sentences

"Publishing" student work from class chart paper drafts.
Following our recent success with the traditional 5-7-5 haiku format (albeit with subject matter that is more reminiscent of a senryu) as part of our Hallway Haiku, prior to Spring break, my classes and I embarked on an introduction to a new, less well-known play on the 17 syllable poetic form, the American Sentence. A truly Western take on the Eastern haiku, this form originated by late Beat poet Allen Ginsberg.

While still adhering to the 17 syllable standard of the traditional haiku, the imagery included in the American sentence is presented in a linear fashion reflective of the left-to-right reading of English as opposed to the top-to-bottom approach in Japanese haiku.

After taking 10 minutes to slow down, look around and capture via free write personal sense-based observations about the world around them (our classroom), I introduced the class to the form more, well, formally.

Based on some research,  I suggested to the class that an exemplary product would include at least one of the following:
  • clear concrete images,
  • juxtaposition (The arrangement of two or more ideas, characters, actions, settings, phrases, or words side-by-side or in similar narrative moments for the purpose of comparison, contrast, rhetorical effect, suspense, or character development.),
  • found poetry (a type of poetry created by taking words, phrases, and sometimes whole passages from other sources and reframing them as poetry by making changes in spacing and/or lines, and consequently meaning),
  • reflect a degree of "mindfulness,"
  • be "compressed" (condensed) for maximum information, minimum number of syllables, and/or
  • demotic speech (of or pertaining to the ordinary, everyday, current form of a language; vernacular).
As a ways of making the form more collaborative, I asked students to contribute to a chain of lines, by first writing two American Sentences, then selecting the one they felt best met the criteria (evocative, imagisitc, approximately 17 syllables in length). This activity was completed for each of my two Advanced Placement Language & Composition courses, resulting in two poems of 20+ lines apiece.

As seen in the picture above, I am currently in the process of publishing (word-processing) each classes collaborative American Sentence Chain and will posting them soon.

1 comment:

peN said...

Dear Mr. Scott, this is one of the most intelligent summaries of this form that I have seen. Thanks for the link. Keep up the good work.

Paul Nelson, Seattle, WA