Sentenced

I’ve never been that sure about grammar. It wasn’t really taught in school, not in any meaningful way. There were bits and pieces, the odd rule like don’t start a sentence with an and or always have a comma before a but. But later I challenged some of these. Perhaps, the teaching of grammar by rules was the problem, if it were taught as knitting or building a wall I might have developed better habits at an earlier age, and yet I fear it may be to late. I am growing a weed, my style of penmanship. Tweaking and changing it’s nature and hoping it pleases, makes sense and steers close enough to the legality of English rules to avoid offending those guardians who would run red pen through it.

Early on I fell for romantic visions, my teenage self obsessing over death and magic, depressive indulgence in all things dark and mysterious. My prose had flowers bigger than chrysanthemums and sentences that went on forever with little sign of punctuation or understandable structure. The love of adjectives, adverbs and all such pretties abound throughout, leaving most readers frustrated despite my mother’s continued praise. Indulging in this honey was fun for a while, but soured as time went on. The discovery of modernism. Of brevity. Clipped sentences, every word mattering. Led me down another path, one requiring the destruction of all that went before. My key discoveries were Hammett and Chandler, as previously discussed, but by way of Pound and Eliot. In a station…alongside the Wasteland at war with Shelley and Keats, so easy to dismiss, but loved of my late teens. That I read Shelley on the Darland banks, with no sense of the ridiculous, sun beating down and full of wonder, seems puzzling to my post cynical, current thirty something incarnation, but was hated in my jaded twenties self when I rejected all that went before. Sadly, the result of my rejection was not the super cool clipped prose of the PI masters. I exchanged decoration for a Neanderthal grunt. Writing short. Keeping it pithy. Usually meant staccato phrases. Interrupted rhythms leading nowhere. When I read it, I feel abbreviated. Chavelle was of this grit, plagued by machine gun descriptions; a lack of commas and my tenuous use of semi colons in some desperation to resurrect a flow into what had become fragmented words, less embarrassing than earlier, but hardly what I had hoped. These polar obsessions were destructive allies and disrupted me for ages. But I hope I’ve learnt to ignore the rules enough to flow without excess, weaving if with a splintered loom, to produce some semblance of pleasant readability. I still have to watch for bold stock phrases, check my indulgences and hope to hell my words pass okay, but no longer worry quite as much and use my faults to illustrate, where possible, whatever it is that I want to say.

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About Roy Smith

Roy Smith lives in the Medway Towns, where he works with young people and spends a lot of time writing nonsense and enjoying himself. Most of his writing happens at night and other inconvenient moments, when he is regularly interrupted by his dog and the desire to play old video games.

2 responses to “Sentenced”

  1. Cynthia Clay says :

    I love your post! Grammar transforms to poetry as it should just as “speech after long silence, it is right.”

  2. taramoyle says :

    I have a love-hate relationship with grammar. As someone who’s done some editing and knows how important a comma can be, I love the pickiness of it, and the game of figuring out which rule applies when. Problem is, I don’t remember the rules anymore. I usually know if something is right or wrong, but it’s intuitive. This is frustrating as I can’t always explain my decisions.

    Love the language in your post, and reading the Romantics at Darland sounds spectacular. Actually I often think of them when I’m there, especially this time of year as it’s so idyllic.

    Also appreciated that tendency to hate a previous literary obsession, and could relate to swinging from one extreme (Romantics) to another (modernists and postmodernists). Sometimes it’s hard to explain yourself, even to yourself.

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