Message from reality

I got a lead balloon from an old friend tonight. Heavy, but miraculously buoyant. The first part was an answer she gave to an essay question on a test. Mechanically, well, it was her runaway style. I’ve seen poet laureates try to manufacture her voice, and fail. Her emotions are felt so hard it’s impossible to write her off as sentimental.

(Somehow nowadays sentimental is a bad thing. I often disparage my own work for being sentimental. Here I am styling myself as a writer unconcerned with what other folks think, yet I can’t raise a sentimental middle finger to the Art Establishment.)

Anyway, tonight I was fortunate to hear from her. She has mastered the run-on sentence. No, more than mastered, she has made the run-on sentence her groveling minion and her flaming sword. I would not dare construct her sentences, and I am less for it. She is a verbal avalanche, and the only thing worse than being swept away by her is to wonder what you missed if you somehow got out of the way. In this way her language is an honest reflection of herself.

To all English teachers out there: Be true to the kids. Be true to the language. Style counts, and when style is backed by passion… well, you dream about that already. There’s art nearby.

One thought on “Message from reality

  1. I once had a student who could have served as a poster boy for why music should be part of the elementary school curriculum (in Albuquerque it’s not). This kid never touched a musical instrument until he got to middle school, where he discovered he had immense talent on the saxophone, and within a couple of years he was playing professionally with Tobias Rene’s band.

    Reading his essays was like listening to Dave Brubek, getting drawn in and then thrown around by stunning, unexpected rhythms and fascinating counterpoints, both phonic and semantic. A side effect of these brilliant rhythms was loads of run-on sentences.

    I told him that for the purpose of academic essays, he would need to learn how to curb the run-ons, but that as soon as he passed English 101 (the prerequisite), he ought to enroll in creative writing. I hope he did.

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