When I am run down and flocked around by the world, I go down to Farte Cove off the Yazoo River and take my beer to the end of the pier where the old liars are still snapping and wheezing at one another.
—Barry Hannah, “Water Liars,” from Airships
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
The opening time signature “When” is a bit of a mis-directive, a "big loose one" to use Hannah's later phrase, as it situates the reader not in a precise time or place but in what I call the "general time" of the story, essentially the depressing realization of habit. After Hannah's confessional "I", his signature in many ways, a series of long, low baritone vowel sounds follow. The sonic pain is heard in the rhyming “ow” of "down," “around,” and “down” again, and the long "e" of "beer,” "pier" and "wheezing." Hannah lures us into the atmosphere of a sentence whose hope ends at the pier, and leaves the reader with a prickling sense of place, the American South, first evoked in the word "flocked." Flocked, with its fricative "f" and hard plosive "ck," might be a stand-in for the four-letter word having to do with being down and out on one's luck. The sentence continues noisily with sibilants, "s," and "z, and the pop of “pp,” in the action verbs "snapping" and "wheezing," which onomotopeaically evoke a kind of bodily violence. The image of a "flocked" man and the depressive recursion of long vowels and spitting consonants are draped over the machinery of this sentence. The proper nouns, Farte (pronounced Fartè, Hannah tells us) Cove and Yazoo River, both place names, do some heavy lifting: setting this story in the tradition of the southern gothic, while also furnishing it with its dark humor.
—Annie DeWitt is the author of White Nights in Split Town City.