Some February American Sentences

A form Allen Ginsberg invented to “Americanize” haiku, these are snapshots of the moment written by Paul E Nelson, one a day, for over eleven years. These are a sampling from most Februaries of the practice. More info at Below see the email exchange with people entrusted to manage Allen Ginsberg’s literary archives.

02.09.01 – One small spat & you reconstruct front room into bedroom-in-exile.

02.08.02 – Next to condom dispenser is written: This is the worst gum ever.

2.01.03 – 1st Israeli astronaut immolates over Palestine, Texas.

2.27.04 – Mother gives birth to six within a minute – like a popcorn popper.

2.15.06 – Do you remember the time when shoes lasted longer than shoelaces?

2.09.07 – Steve’s Civil Service motto: Why work for an asshole when you can be one?

2.16.08 – Today Pop tells me: I can’t complain, then he says the weather sucks.

2.23.09 – UNFAIR say the cat’s eyes – feather toy on the other side of the spokes.

2.10.10 – Sign in Charles Potts’ kitchen window: Loose women tightened here.

2.27.11 – I don’t remember what year it was Pop stopped smiling in photographs.

—–Original Message—–

From: Paul Nelson []
Sent: Thursday, May 05, 2005 3:14 PM
Subject: American Sentences

Dear AG people, I am a fan of Allen’s who interviewed him once. I’d like to have any information on American Sentences you can provide. Having written them daily for 5 years, I am charged with presenting a paper on this form in September. Any clues?

Thanks, Paul Nelson

Global Voices Radio

Subject: RE: American Sentences
From: “info”
Date: Mon, 9 May 2005
13:46:21 -0400
To: “Paul Nelson”

Dear Paul Nelson,

Sorry I’m just now getting back to you. I was digging around for something useful to send your way, but haven’t been successful. Haiku inspired using american diction. They evolved out of Haiku, but don’t adhere to the 17 syllable structure. That’s why he calls them what he does, and not Haiku. He does keep to the contrast structure: close up/long view and then what bring it all together old pond (far) the frog(near) jumped in, kerplunk (ties them together) Loosely that’s his angle on these, and you probably well know that. If I can come up with something a bit more, I’ll by all means send it your way.

Cheers, Peter Hale

About Splabman

Paul Nelson is founder of SPLAB (Seattle Poetics LAB) in Seattle, the Cascadia Poetry Festival and the August POetry POstcard Fest (PoPo). He has published a collection of essays, Organic Poetry & a serial poem re-enacting the history of Auburn, WA, A Time Before Slaughter (shortlisted for a 2010 Genius Award by The Stranger) and American Sentences, a book of 17 syllable poems drawn from the first fourteen of his 20 years of daily practice. The tenth anniversary edition of that book includes Pig War: & Other Songs of Cascadia. He’s interviewed Allen Ginsberg, Michael McClure, Wanda Coleman, Anne Waldman, Sam Hamill, Robin Blaser, Nate Mackey, Eileen Myles, George Bowering, Diane di Prima, Brenda Hillman, George Stanley, Joanne Kyger & many Cascadia poets (see: has presented his poetry and poetics in London, Brussels, Bothell, Cumberland, BC, Qinghai and Beijing, China, Lake Forest, Illinois, Ukiah, CA, and other places & writes an American Sentence every day.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.