The pillow smelled of apricot shampoo and also a dusky undertone—some private erotic decay like the inside of a wilted flower.
—Louise Erdrich, from The Round House
Poets think in lines, prose writers in sentences; the best of both work from sound to sense, with an ear for the music in their compositions. S for Sentence celebrates lyricism in prose, the play and craft at work in the artful sentence. We post a sentence a month along with comments by a guest writer on the craft that shapes it, on what makes it great. In one or two sentences.
—Pearl Abraham, Editor
—Stephanie Grant, Guest Editor
This begins with the long smooth O in “pillow,” echoes the double L in “smelled,” then bunches up around the jagged consonants of “apricot.” From here, the next dozen words move the tongue in small circles. We tap through a series of hard D sounds to reach “undertone,” leaving the tongue perched above the front teeth, where it will return. “Some” brings back the sibilants in “smelled” and “dusky.” Then “private” and “erotic” rise like twin stamen, two stepping stones with an awkward pause between them, which resonates with the abrupt break caused by the em dash. The sentence is divided equally: two mirroring, 18-syllable halves. The hard C of “erotic” and “apricot,” is echoed in the K of “like,” “inside” both begins a short I rhyme (in/wilted) and completes a long I rhyme (like/side), and the sentence finally finishes on “flower,” which almost borrows the “low” from the opening “pillow.” Erdrich finds beauty on the downhill: wilt, dusk, and decay are here made alluring.
—Tyler McQuillan is the author of the story "A Wandering," featured on The Saturday Evening Post website