Then even his luggage belonged to him again, and he strode through the barriers, more high-hearted than he had ever been as a child, into that city which the people from heaven had made their home.
—James Baldwin, from Another Country
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
From the outset, Baldwin subverts the reader’s expectation with the simple omission of a comma between ‘Then’ and ‘even,’ which would suggest a pause, or consideration of events about to unfold. Without the comma the sentence bangs out of the gate with a liberal slathering of ‘n’ consonance like butter on toast: `Then even...belonged...again.' After which, the sentence hands off the first subordinate clause movement to the next with a conjunction [and], picks up speed, fueling the protagonist’s feverish pace with a succession of decisive r’s: 'strode...through...barriers.' All of this sonic momentum culminates with an ecstatic revelation that hinges on the adverb ‘ever’: ‘more high-hearted than he had [ever] been as a child.’ With ‘high-hearted’ and ‘he-had,’ the early breathy h of ‘his-him-he’ gets picked up, and this harmonic, overlapping arrangement of consonance in close proximity points to an enmeshment of past, present, and future. We glide ‘into that city which the people from heaven had made their home,’ and land, as if on a pile of angel wings, with a gentle thud.
—Dana Trupa is working on her chapbook The Fourteenth Moon and Planet Joey, her full-length play,