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National Poetry Month: April 8, 2020 — Holy Soul Jelly Roll Gurus

April 8, 2020

Wearing boots and a skirt but no bra, I pull weeds, plant seeds between storms.

From Ginsberg’s “Guru”:

“It is the city that vanishes; I stay with my forgotten shoes.”

which reminds me of Ray Carver’s “New Path by the Waterfall.”

“Guru” can be found on The Lion for Real by Allen Ginsberg which features musical accompaniment by Bill Frisell, Philip Glass, Paul McCartney and others and on Ginsberg’s 1994 two part disc Holy Soul Jelly Roll; this track was produced by Hal Willner who died yesterday. Scroll down to listen to it.Tuesday, April 7, 2020, the day after his 64th birthday, of complications related to COVID 19. In a tribute to Willner, Anne Litt played it on KCRW this morning and I was captivated.

We’ve also been hearing lots of John Prine as he died recently from Covid 19 too. While I was unfamiliar with Hal Willner, I was a fan of John Prine’s for 25 years or so.

April is National Poetry Month plus locked down with stay in place orders so I’m posting an American sentence or two every day along with an image that reflects the sentence and my experience during this time. 

Allen Ginsberg came up with the concept — an American sentence is like a haiku in that it has 17 syllables but it’s not three lines in a stanza but one line, a sentence. As haiku seeks to offer an image that generates emotion and conveys a moment in time, the best Sentences do more than just be a sentence in 17 syllables.

I learned about American Sentences from Paul E. Nelson who I met at the Taos Poetry Circus in 2000.

According to Paul, the key to writing a good American Sentence comes from Ginsberg’s notion that poets are people who notice what they notice.

He has been writing one a day since January 1, 2001. Learn more about American Sentences and how to write good ones from Paul here.

Share your own American Sentence in the comments!

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