[excerpts] Prose and Rhythm


[excerpts] Prose and Rhythm

May 2017

“As for the mot juste, you are quite wrong. Style is a very simple matter; it is all rhythm. Once you get that, you can’t use the wrong words. But on the other hand here am I sitting after half the morning, crammed with ideas, and visions, and so on, and can’t dislodge them, for lack of the right rhythm. Now this is very profound, what rhythm is, and goes far deeper than words. A sight, an emotion, creates this wave in the mind, long before it makes words to fit in; and in writing (such is my present belief) one has to recapture this, and set this working (which has nothing apparently to do with words) and then, as it breaks and tumbles in the mind, it makes words to fit it. But no doubt I shall think differently next year.”

-Virgina Woolf, March 1926


“The thing to remember is that good prose does have a stress-shythm, subtle and complex and changing thought it may be. Dull prose, clunky narrative, hard-to-read textbook stuff, lacks the rhythm that catches and drives and moves the reader’s body and mind and heart…

Prose and poetry- all art, music, dance- rise from and move with the profound rhythms of our body, our being, and the body and being of the world. Physicists read the universe as a great range of vibrations, of rhythms. Art follows and expresses those rhythms. Once we get the beat, the right beat, our ideas and our words dance to it, the round dance that everybody can join. And then I am thou, and the barriers are down. For a little while.” 

-Ursula Le Guin, 2004