I managed to post 17 syllables to this space every. single. January day. And when I came to the end, I wondered what would happen on February 1?
February 1, I posted 17 more.
The concept of an American Sentence is rather obscure and though I learned about it in the context of a poetry writing class years ago, I don’t really think about this project as poetry but rather, a creative puzzle. I honestly don’t even know if it’s right to call it an American Sentence. However I ultimately resolve that question, the fact that I show up every day to write a single sentence with specific parameters is a challenge I’ve enjoyed (and appreciate).
Toward the end of January, I checked out the source material where I first learned about American Sentences. Early in Kim Addonizio’s book, Ordinary Genius, she says, Language leads to more language, and she suggests the exercise of writing American Sentences to serve like playing musical scales for the art of writing: Begin with whatever is in your immediate environment, and then expand into memory, into ideas, to see what comes up.This may all be good advice as a starting place for poets, I don’t know. What I do know is that it is an excellent lens for me to use in paying attention to my life.
I’ve enjoyed the challenge of navigating my days while watching for my one 17 syllable sentence. I don’t worry about expectations of good poetry (whatever that is) and I don’t disqualify a sentence because I filled in some gaps with a super long title. Sometimes the sentences don’t work too well, but I’ve decided that’s okay. Sometimes they come to me fast and easy while others are much more work. I think some sentences turn out better than others. Sometimes I circle back and edit what I wrote the day before. Whatever the particulars, in every case I can say that I showed up with real thought and effort.
With the artist in mind, Writer/Artist Austin Kleon says: Figure out what your little daily chunk of work is, and every day, no matter what, make sure it gets done…..Building a body of work (or a life) is all about the slow accumulation of a day’s worth of effort over time.
And that’s exactly it. For whatever else it may be and for however long I carry on, right now my practice of writing a daily “American Sentence” represents my work to build a life in one day’s worth of effort at a time.