Verdurous Sentence
Leonore Hildebrandt

Verdurous Sentence

Some people favor its complexity,
call it a touchstone of society’s rank,
whereby readers are led down garden paths
wound and shaped along syntactic markers––
sunflower here, a cabbage there, and open spots,
caesuras––arranged by the master gardener
so that vistas develop slowly,
by way of accumulation, blending shaded side-trips
with the route suggested at the entrance
until successive steps adjust the previous passage––
and these people give counsel
how you might avoid the common pitfalls
like passive voice and faulty parallel
to bring off a lush elegance,
to entice the readers, who will follow, gladly,
even the most elaborate convolution––
after all, these people say,
to work in the interest of the common good
is to cultivate one’s language
(meaning to prepare for crops,
to inhabit the land), and they regret
seeing the English sentence
slashed and burnt in exchange for
the instant, barren content, or rather
its reduction, uttered in the breathless voice
so typical of younger generations.
But I say, short is beautiful, so dig it.
When the ground erodes, move on ASAP.

Leonore Hildebrandt

is the author of The Work at Hand and The Next Unknown, as well as the forthcoming Where You Happen to Be. She teaches writing at the University of Maine and serves on the editorial board of the Beloit Poetry Journal.