Some teachers say the sentence is the building block of all writing and believe that, if you can help students learn to form all the varieties of effective sentences, you can teach them how to write. The rest of composition, they say, builds from those variously shaped but geometric blocks.
I’m not sure I agree—you need something you care to write about—but I like creating sentences.
Recently, I’ve been reading Lyn Hejinian’s My Life, a long prose poem comprised of tenuously connected sentences. Broken into unnumbered units, each poem contains clues to the life at its center, but no entry ever compromises the whole’s collective mystery. I’m not sure I’ll ever really know what the book is about, but it’s beautiful, as mercurial and tidal as thought. And it’s inspiring. I’ve found myself composing sentences without thinking about what lies beyond their shady edges. They have no next.
Because I’m busy, I’m offering 15 of the sentences from this week. They aren’t stories or poems or little essays, and maybe they are only valuable to me. But they’re all I have this Saturday…
1. Before dawn, I saw something else in the bush, as if its berries were bulbs about to come on.
2. If I gaze at maps long enough, I see them as places themselves.
3. She awoke from her early evening nap saying she’d had a slew of dreams, but I thought she said “stew” and almost smelled its aroma leaving through open windows.
4. At the moment of the accident, I felt the physical intrusion of another reality—just after, I considered all the paths leading in other directions.
5. Some affection grows so thick it becomes impossible to see or breathe.
6. Every time I saw him, something replaced an event we’d shared, as if the past were a body renewed fresh cell by fresh cell.
7. The way my father painted shadows they carried colors that, up to the last moment, looked impossible.
8. Now, when I hope to sleep, I find myself begging madness to govern my thoughts, but it stands outside, stubborn.
9. Cinematographers have a way of filming the moon and sun to make them loom, and sometimes I imagine them on opposite horizons, each staring at each.
10. What if the world periodically fell into time-lapse, everything suddenly slipping into its future unchecked?
11. Most flowers look like props to me.
12. You wonder which history will tell what just happened, so you speak your version out loud knowing your hope will be obvious.
13. The strangest music is an argument in another language.
14. Under a streetlamp, enjoying the day’s last breezes, I watched shadows of leaves teeming like gray moths.
15. My mind returns to memories of itself drawing, forming shapes or filling them in or covering them up to make room for another layer of new images.
See you Wednesday…