But then they danced down the streets like dingledodies, and I shambled after as I’ve been doing all my life after people who interest me, because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue center-light pop and everybody goes ‘Awww!’
–Jack Kerouac, from On the Road
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
Kerouac opens with the alliterative “danced down" and “dingledodies,” and follows with “shambled after,” in a loose but-and-because structure that does the work of evoking the loose lifestyle he pursued, one that dismisses rules and restrictions, dismisses all that is conventional. Madness is the prophetic mode; prophets were said to be mad; prophets, often unpopular with the people, delivered their prophecies at the risk of losing their lives. The repetition and variation in this sentence, "mad to live, mad to talk...burn burn burn," create a percussive drum beat that pounds out the urgency that such a life aspires to: All fireworks, there is no holding back. This is life lived at its fullest, at the risk of early burnout. The "Awww" the sentence ends on is our response to the untimely death of a star, when we are moved by the youthful brilliance and promise that has passed on too soon, though that is the cost of life lived at high intensity. Urgent life was also the ethos of the Beat Generation, formed largely by Kerouac himself.
–AJ Frustacci is a senior in Creative Writing at WNE, in Springfield, MA