Smatterings #7 – Word Artistry

There are few things I love and admire more than words. Even used independently, a single word can evoke as much emotion and strength as when strung together into sentences: Surprise! Believe. Heartbroken. Bravo! Yes. No. Goodbye. There is power in words.

In the hands of a skilled writer, a carefully chosen sequence can paint a world as artfully as Monet, Gauguin, da Vinci, or Renoir. Of course, I would be remiss not to mention the beauty of words when given cadence. Like Baryshnikov, Astaire, Kelly, Pavlova—words have a flair and a style unique to their artist. The right words never lie flat on a page; they dance!

One of my favorite “writer stories” comes from the deGroot play called PAPA. One evening, a group of betting friends challenged Hemingway with writing a short story in ten words or less. On a paper napkin, he wrote, “For Sale: Baby shoes. Never worn.” His powerful words—which in the true essence of a story has a beginning, a middle, and an end—won. Who can deny the beauty of a sentence, well written?

“In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing.” A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean.

“The high grey-flannel fog of winter closed off the Salinas Valley from the sky and from all the rest of the world.” The Long Valley by John Steinbeck

“As Sonon strode through the evening forest, his black cape parted the sea of frigid air, leaving ice crystals swirling behind him.” People of the Black Sun by Kathleen O’Neal Gear and W. Michael Gear

“On a hill by the Mississippi where Chippewas camped two generations ago, a girl stood in relief against the cornflower blue of Northern sky.” Main Street by Sinclair Lewis

“See, normal hearing aids usually have a part that wraps around the outer ear to hold the inner bud in place. But in my case, since I don’t have outer ears, they had to put the earbuds on this heavy-duty headband that was supposed to wrap around the back of my head.” Wonder by R.J. Palacio

“They found Seth Hubbard in the general area where he had promised to be, though not exactly in the condition expected. He was at the end of a rope, six feet off the ground and twisting slightly in the wind.” Sycamore Row by John Grisham

“Aiden Lynch slid down the steep creek bank, dirt crumbling beneath his bare feet and dust rising in a cloud behind him. He eyed the muddy trickle of water at the bottom and decided not to drink. Strange how a person could be so particular about drinking muddy water when he had come down to the creek to eat dirt, but nothing else made much sense in his life anymore, so why should that?” The Devil’s Paintbox by Victoria McKernan

“As I stepped out of the cabin, whiteness blinded me.” Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett

“When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold. My fingers stretch out, seeking Prim’s warmth but finding only the rough canvas cover of the mattress. She must have had bad dreams and climbed in with our mother. Of course, she did. This is the day of the reaping.” The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Each passage paints a world vastly different than the others, doesn’t it? It’s in the beauty of their words that we see the life within their stories. Artistry comes in many forms, but words are what touch my soul. They are as vivid as paints on a palette, as fulfilling as drink and nourishment, and as entrancing as the beauty of dance.

Words define us, even when we’ve not spoken them.

5 thoughts on “Smatterings #7 – Word Artistry”

  1. Just wanted to share a poem I wrote yesterday which seemed fitting. I hope they touch you in some way.


    The words flow through me like blood.
    Into every corner of my existence.
    Disorganized to me, but in constant communication with each other.
    Voices inside, giving me glimpses of what is to come.
    The words are not mine to call upon at will.
    They are, each of them, gifts, undeserved – precious.
    Respiration of my soul.
    They can’t be forced at my command
    to fall neatly into place for my satisfaction.
    They come when my heart cries out – a letter at a time to humble me.
    Yet I am proud they would think to use ME as a vessel,
    a waiting place.
    When I have been prepared and deemed worthy,
    I sit down and exhale them into place for the satisfaction of those, whom the words choose.

    1. Hello Eric,

      Your words are beautiful. A few passages of your poem had a tremendous effect, such as, “Disorganized to me, but in constant communication with each other.” You’ve seen the word dance! It is simply amazing, isn’t it? Also, “They come when my heart cries out – a letter at a time to humble me.” So poignant. Again, I see the dance, letters flowing until they fall into place. You have the vision. You have the gift. Thank you so much for sharing!

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