There are ten thousand things we must think of every time we make a step and I am not sure that the public is fully aware of the limitations which other persons have made on us.
—Caryl Phillips, from Dancing in the Dark
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 line is part of a written response to backlash the actress Aida Walker received from theatre critics and audiences when she and her cohort performed without blackface makeup. Caryl Phillips’ use of “there are” shows the simplicity and value of the passive voice, shifting the weight to the objects that follow. The “ten thousand things” declaration doesn’t feel like hyperbole, because the verb phrase “must think” shows Walker’s truth measured in feeling. Phillips lets the conjunction “and” mirror the division Walker describes. The first clause delivers the world she sees, and the second evokes the imaginations of those who misjudge her. With “I am not sure,” the certainty of Walker’s lived experience gives way to the uncertainties and vulnerabilities. The absence of punctuation quickens the pacing, thereby heightening the urgency. The words flow quickly, as if this truth must be delivered clearly and intact, out of the mind and onto the page.
—Ravi Howard is the author of Driving the King and Like Trees, Walking