Major Jackson wouldn’t know me from any other earnest poet-in-training, but I “studied” with him in a two-hour class he led at Bookstock two years ago in which he introduced the one-sentence poem. I’m a fast writer when it comes to workshops—no time to ponder, I figure, or worry—so I quickly scribbled out a one-sentence poem, which seemed appropriate to the form—its urgent, all-in-one-breath-like quality.
Thank you, Major, for introducing to me and the other poets in the class a form we may not often think about using. There are a few one-sentence poems in your latest book Roll Deep; maybe you were writing them during Bookstock. In a book filled with poems of both despair and exultation in a variety of forms, the one-sentence poems seem most effective at cataloging a speaker’s shock at the ravishes of war, poverty, or loss.
One such poem, “v. Of”, about Kenya, begins:
Of enemies, of men surrounding women
and the countless rapes fifteen miles
from the border, even on the outskirts around
camps, how those women speak little, their smiles
like broken carts…
Roll Deep, although unflinching in its presentation of troubles in our world, also celebrates the familial, domestic, and wild, including our own Vermont landscape. “Ode to Mount Philo,” although not quite a one-sentence poem, tacking on two short sentences at the end, uses the one-sentence flow to capture the effort and reward of a mountain hike. Here is an excerpt:
and climb, after storm’s last
sculpture of fallen trees, You,
summit of my life, philosophy
of sky, You, embezzler of breaths
from big and small mouths,
so that all whisper your spread-out
tabernacle, a new religion,— …
I still have my Bookstock/Major Jackson/one-sentence poem which reminds me of poetry’s possibilities, and a teacher whose informative subject and encouraging support of fellow poets was inspiring. Looking forward to meeting you again, Major, and hearing you read.