Yes, well, or: When you put it that way

An American sentence:

Mental limits to our capacities for relationships exist.

What’s an ‘American Sentence’?

Allen Ginsberg, inventor of the American Sentence, felt that the haiku didn’t work as well in English. Ginsberg decided to remove the line structure of the haiku, maintaining the requirement of 17 syllables total. He felt that removing the line count freed the American Sentence up for the idiosyncrasies of English phonemes.

The requirements:

  1. Composed in one line;
  2. Syllabic, 17 syllables;
  3. Condensed, written with no unnecessary words or articles;
  4. Complete sentence or sentences;
  5. Includes a turn or enlightenment.

27 thoughts on “Yes, well, or: When you put it that way”

  1. I think I read this in an entirely different way that perhaps you intended. (I tend to see things a bit differently in general- works very well for me in my photography, not always so much in life in general). My immediate thought didn’t at all pertain to mental limits regarding the number of relationships we can sustain, but rather the mental limits we have to sustain individual relationships- as in- how much of yourself can you sacrifice for another person before you have to let go of that relationship. I’ve been there several times- with people I loved beyond reason. It’s a hard line to draw.
    Not sure if that makes the slightest bit of sense to anyone else…

  2. Quite controversial, David. There were attempts to replicate Dunbar’s studies, and the results indicate that the margin of error undermines the validity of his theory.

      1. And what happens if one meets yet another person who is a kindred soul? Should the new person be not allowed into the limited number or should one of the old friends be discarded, to keep this hypothetical number consistent?

        1. I don’t think there’s an exact number – I’m just saying that we are finite. It’s not a conscious decision to “discard” relationships – I think it happens naturally over time, as priorities and preferences change.

          1. Dear David, with all due respect, I have lived in this world a few Shabbosim longer than you, and have not found this to be true. Just as your parents in their time, we were thrown around all over the world, but I still keep social interactions going with old friends (with the exception of those who are no longer around, sadly), while acquiring new friends who are just as close. Of course, Internet is a big help. I have observed other social clusters like that as well, so I am not alone.

          2. I think we’ll have to agree to disagree, Dolly.

            This seems self-evidently true to me. I do not think that we are capable of maintaining stable social relationships with a limitless number of people, unless one’s concept of “relationship” is watered down to the point of being meaningless.

            No disrespect intended, but that’s how I see it.


          3. Shavuah Tov, David!
            I think ‘sets’ will describe it better. The same souls who were close during one lifetime gravitate to each other and form close relationships during other lifetimes, yet in different roles, sometimes in different genders, and perhaps even as animals.
            A close friend in one lifetime could be a family member or a loyal dog in the other, for instance.
            Air hug,

  3. Well, yes, but also: Why not

    Why can’t heart’s relationships beat-beat our existing mental limits?

    “The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing.” Blaise Pascal

    Don’t mental capacities sublimate in carnal relationships?

    “The sexual embrace can only be compared with music and with prayer.” Marcus Aurelius

    Do not mental limits dissolve in bursting bubbles of soul’s delight?

    “What soap is to the body, laughter is to the soul.” Yiddish Proverb

    Please note, David, in addition to the Socratic-dialog format of my comment, which is typical of my relationship to great minds, that the Marcus Aurelius Roman sentence goes one syllable over the American sentences between the quotes (assuming an American sentence may be interrogative?), and the other quotes also are in their respective national-sentence formats. And please forgive the ‘camp’ tone I am using: I am at work on a post on that genre, and another on irony, and my tongue is stuck in my cheek. In an American sentence: A poet’s relationship to camp mentally limits one’s boredom. 😉

      1. I hadn’t heard of “Dunbar’s Number” before I started following your blog, David, nor “Ginsberg’s American Sentence.” Always learning. Thank you.

  4. An American sentence: more likely for prison than for free poetry.
    (sorry, got a bit political there. I actually thought that’s what you were talking about at first. You can accuse it of being a criminal sentence if you like?)

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