Saturday, June 27, 2009

One-Hundred-Twenty-Four-Word Sentence

I am currently working my way through the Teaching Company course "Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer's Craft," taught by Professor Brooks Landon of the University of Iowa. This is definitely an English major's course, and I would not inflict it on the average high schooler, but I intend to use its principles and exercises in a live writing course I'm teaching this year.

The course has 24 lectures, and I've just finished the twelfth, which has an exercise in cumulative sentence-writing. My task was to write a sentence of at least 100 words, making use of course elements like modifying phrases, parallel structure, comparison, etc. in its construction. I was also challenged to try working from just one base clause. As Professor Landon explains, the purpose of the exercises is not to create ideal sentences to be worked into prose, but to exercise our skills at different forms, so that they come to us easily and naturally when those constructions could be of use in our writing.

Here is my sentence, only slightly edited as I went along:

The swallows burst from the barn at twilight, the old structure dry and splintered, creaking in the wind, its base crowded by weeds, concrete blocks, and broken ancient rusty machines, the dimming sky one dusk purpled by clouds, streaked with that sunset's orange, another night clamped suddenly down with the sun slipping quickly into the west, still another evening held so blue, so clear, so watery green at the edges, like a still spring with tiny silent bubbling in its depths, the birds swooping out in a curve up into the sky, in a whirl of wings, in a tossing of acrobatic antics, as if they waited for their cue--the rising music, the streaking stage lights, the crowd's anticipation--to begin their daily dance.
Come join us on the deck one sunset to see what I mean!


Jen said...

Cool, Cindy. I like it.

Jen (who is trying to be a woman of FEW words right now...big grin)

Renee said...

Wow! If anyone I know can pull that exercise off, it's you - and you did!

corinne hook said...

Well, I tried this with my rhetoric students, using a base clause from the lecture (they sat...)and had some wonderful results! And we had fun with it, too!

Cindy Marsch said...

Corinne, do your students watch all these lectures? How do they handle them? I enjoyed the earlier ones, but I felt that I was channeling my inner English major and that students would glaze over if not similarly bent. ;-)