I haven't talked about prose rhythm in a while, but it's something I'm very aware of. Poetry isn't the only kind of writing that has a rhythm.
noticed that when I scroll up my blog feed page, I can tell who wrote
which post even before I read the actual words or see the name at the
top of the post. It has to do with the patterns people use when they
write. Some write in long, dense blocks of text. Others write long posts
built from short paragraphs. Some use short sentences with frequent
line breaks. Others use mostly pictures.
I've noticed that many writers who write for Harper's magazine
favor very long sentences, and I began to wonder whether that was just
the editorial preference, and how much the editors shape the prose that
I first noticed prose rhythm in the writing of Jack Kerouac,
where it's knock-you-over-the-head obvious, especially in works such as
Desolation Angels and Visions of Cody. Similarly, his friend and colleague Allen Ginsberg wrote poetry with long breathless lines, Howl being
the prime example (though Ginsberg's work does not sound exactly like
Kerouac's). Hemingway is another writer whose rhythm stands out, in his
case for shorter, plainer, sentences. Every writer has a distinctive
pace and tone and meter, a distinctive way of shaping language as if to a
tune that only he or she can hear. Often we start our careers so
beguiled by another writer's rhythm and style that we ape it, whether
consciously or not, in our early efforts. But we learn to tune in to the
inner musician and turn up the volume, to find our own rhythm.