Time for the shadows to lengthen on the grass, time for the tethered dog to bark at the flying ball, time for the boy in right field to smack his sweat-blackened mitt and softly chant: They is, they is, they is.
—Tobias Wolff, from “Bullet in the Brain”
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
Content matches form in this masterful sentence. Each clause begins with Time for… and repeats three times which echoes the chant at the end of the sentence: they is, they is, they is. Each clause expands on the previous one’s structure. The first is simple: noun + verb + noun; the second adds an adjective (tethered); the third keeps the adjective construct from the second clause and picks up a new modifier: the adverb (softly). This progression creates a natural rhythm in the sentence. The pairing of a two syllable word followed by a monosyllabic word (lengthen grass, tethered dog, flying ball, blackened mitt, softly chant) establishes meter. Smack half rhymes with black/ened. Sweat, mitt, softly, and chant are examples of consonance: tuh, tuh, tuh, tuh. Each use of sound here is so precise and deliberate that a sentence about chanting becomes a chant itself.
—Baylea Jones's story "The Girl from Montana" is a finalist for the New Letters Prize in fiction.