20 August 2012

Our Lost Jungle Poetry Form Challenge: Challenge #8 --- Two-for-One

Welcome to Week 8 of the Our Lost Jungle Poetry Form Challenge!

I sort of feel like I’m on one of those action drama television shows like “24”, at the moment where a character like Jack Bauer puts in a call and is screaming into the line, “I don’t have a lot of time!” I just moved into a new apartment, and don’t yet have reliable internet service, which means I’m rushing through the writing of this week’s post and prompt in hopes I get it done and scheduled before the internet gods “cut the red wire” to my connection.

So, without further ado, let’s get right into this week’s challenge!

The OLJ Poetry Form Challenge #8: Monostiches + American Sentences
Defining it

Remember last week when I suggested getting started with your prose poems by trying to write monostiches and American Sentences? And then I said something about this week being a two-for-one challenge week?

Well guess what? This week’s challenge is to write monostich and American Sentence poems.

Let’s start with the American Sentence. This form, invented by Allen Ginsberg, is simply a variation of the haiku. Remember writing those earlier in the challenge? (If not, check out this link to learn more about haiku.) The rules of an American Sentence are very simple. The poem is one sentence, 17 syllables long. That’s it. If you can write a haiku, you can write an American Sentence, though it would also be fair to argue it’s a little more challenging because while haiku don’t have to be complete sentences, American Sentences … well, kind of obviously do.

The monostich is just as simple. It is a single-line poem form; the line should be “self-contained,” which pretty much just means it should be one short, concise thought. A monostich looks like this:

I feel you breathing in my toes.

… and not so much like this:

I feel you breathing in my toes, the warmth of you heavy in the tiny folds of pinching skin that remind me who I am—who you are—what we have become together …

Although the second example was a lot more fun to write (I think I have the start of a new poem there), it qualifies neither as an American Sentence or a monostich—it’s way more than 17 syllables, and it’s definitely not a one-liner!

Doing it

Your goal this week is to write as many of these delicate little poems as you can. Aim for at least five American Sentences and at least five monostiches. You don’t have to share every single one you write … but you could! I don’t know if there are specific “rules” about titling an American Sentence, since technically if you title it the poem becomes more than one sentence in length (but who wants to be technical here), and though some folks frown upon titling a monostich (they feel it takes away from the work of brevity aimed for in the poem—codswallop, I say, unless your title somehow becomes, like, five lines long). For the sake of this challenge, feel free to title your poems—just keep it brief!

Fun it up!

I might be in a crunch for time, but that doesn’t mean you are! You have from now until Thursday at 10pm EDT to share your poems here, via email (ourlostjungle@kharahouse.com), or through a link (or links) to your own blog in the comments or an email. Remember, you can post as many attempts as you’d like … I’d say “just don’t go overboard,” but with one-line or 17-syllable poems I find it hard to imagine anyone pushing the boundaries of reason. Don’t forget to show some love to the other folks who share their poems! And as always, have fun with it!

Good luck!


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Catch up with the Our Lost Jungle Poetry Form Challenge:


  1. Here are a few trial runs. Note that I’m counting –ed endings as a syllable.

    American Sentences:

    You can lie down in front of a train a penny on a rail and run.

    At lunch they laughed belching the alphabet on the middle school lawn.

    Apologize for being an ass when you hurt the people you love.

    Fifteen syllables seem to me to be easier to write, oh well.


    Pull me closer to you.

    Words are life.

    Leaves fall from sickly trees first.

    Time is all about the clock.

    I wish she’d leave that bikini behind.

    1. the bikini line cracked me up! great one! :)

    2. These are all so clever! I agree with Bolton about the bikini line!

    3. Here are a few more thoughts on American Sentences and recollection of seeing Ginsburg read.

  2. I'm fairly clear on the American Sentence, but a little iffy on what makes something a monostitch. But I've had a go at them (link)

    1. Who would have guessed. Barbara comes up with some doozies. Left a comment on her blog.

  3. Thank you, Khara for introducing this form. I hope I did them right.

    My American Sentences

    My Monostitch attempts

    1. The 'moon dirge' and 'mother to my parents' were gems. The 'cantaloupe' (being one of my favorite words) was delicious. And you know, 'strangers pointing fingers' are never far from the muse.

    2. same old same old was gorgeous. and the cantaloupe classic. in awe.

    3. liked the mother of my parents. i am right there with you. and the silver and gold one speaks to us all probably.

  4. Really fun, Khara. http://mapoetpoems.blogspot.com/2012/08/poetry-one-liners.html


Thank you so much for your comments! Please feel free to share your thoughts here; I look forward to engaging in conversation with you!

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