Seven Variations on a Sentence

1. Build box fill with content space controls design states theme bounces against thesis walled margin defined area filled with persons places things painted drawn and quartered in actions still within lines.

2. Build tables cells macro plots instruct how to within what build city filled roads on roads place persons places things actions ruled within scheme bordered function.

3. Shape controlled text how said informed what said syllabus sawhorse lay round flat stones for flat feet map outlined argument billed old metaphor electronically melting build light to power body sun swayed body.

4. Old metaphors corrupt case cold call book disappeared in closed pit wings line empty library shelves body of fabrication strip-milled pall-mall plumbing hidden in alley walls.

5. Build statement paper small hamlet few houses number pages lines words characters  define beginning finite end create punctuation to manage tasks a men an age.

6. Align build assign venture run meet-and-greet purpose audience use rows columns fixed to stage con persons places things rotate rows to columns columns to rows persons to things places to persons things to places sketch arranges profile persuades.

7. User friendly unalloyed no-frills click here look ma no hands silhouette of idea.


  1. Gede Prama says:

    Thank you, great inspiring blog, i’m so looking forward to start reading and discovering what you write on here.. :)


  2. Joe, your text made me feel dizzy. But the link to Edward Tufte and particular this post about negative space, rhymes with me.


    1. Joe Linker says:

      Sorry about the vertigo! That’s what Mario tells Neruda in the film “Il Postino.” And check out Tufte’s maps if you get a chance. But to write a poem that has readers feel they’re surfing! Everything’s a metaphor for something else? (Mario); everything’s a gas!


  3. bristlehound says:

    I really battled with this. It almost sounds as if it is draft plans for the building of a ‘Real Tennis court’ though I think I must be considering the literal and missing the kernel of this writing. Please help Joe, I cannot take it any longer I need to know.B


    1. Joe Linker says:

      oh just having some fun with the idea that there’s more than one way of saying something, or of building something, yet, paradoxically, maybe, we frequently get hung up on one way of doing things, out of habit, or submitting to the authority of experts, authority which is usually codified in rules, and if you break the rules, you are “sentenced”: “drawn and quartered.”

      so a crime has been committed, a crime spree, in fact, a series of sentences without punctuation. the facts are these: people places and things (common nouns) in action (verb).

      design begins with innovation then changes into fixed rules, so the new is lost, and rebuilding is far more difficult than to build anew, more expensive.

      and design controls content by creating the rules for filling the box, the form. so in twitter for example you get the tweet, 140 characters. though you can tweet fewer characters, you can’t use more than 140, thus the content is controlled, though twitter doesn’t appear in any of the sentences. but just to say how you say something is controlled by the form in which you say it. but the key to the tone in the seven sentences is the suggestion that designers often deny being wardens to the content, while content providers are deluded into thinking they have creative control.

      and then there’s the audience, and how it’s connected to the build, the box (people, places, things, actions, arranged in roads, columns, rows), when the venture “goes live,” is “plugged in.” but what of the “light”? not sure about this, but then we have the well lit places of devices (phone, laptop), and what are the rules? quickly lost here. how can we even know them?

      so the old metaphors (mcluhan – form follows content, or form is content, etc.) and Norman o. brown (love’s body, where parts of the body become metaphors: head of state, seat of government – all of which I suppose has lost some popularity today for it’s reliance on freud for symbolism, etc.). but the idea of free association is at the heart (there you go, love’s body again) of sentence writing (sententia = opinion, feeling, which grows to sententiousness, the sententiousness of the sentence, once limited), and the free always pushing against the rules of logic inherent in the sentence structure (subject/predicate/object, etc.), clear beginnings and endings.

      here’s an interesting Adorno piece, which opens with the idea that the punctuation mark is shaped in imitation of the gesture of a body.

      on a personal note, I had started the piece thinking it would be titled “paragraphs,” or “paragraphing.” readers may be probably happy to note I reduced the project to sentences! apart from any of the above, I just like writing sentences, and rewriting them is something like painting, always painting over and changing shapes. painting might be a place to go where design does not control content.

      and so, btw, i just had to look up “real tennis” again, and i note, from the french (wiki, anyway), “take heed.” ah, ha! there you go!


      1. bristlehound says:

        Thank you so much Joe. The point you made about painting and painting over made real sense. Your ability to work with words and sentences just thrills me, it’s as if you are in a circus and juggling knives in front of a crowd. What a performance and the crowd applauds a remarkable talent. Thankyou so much for sharing this, I am honestly changed each time I interact with your work. My hope is that at some point my own expression will be something that can warm your soul in a similar way. B


        1. Joe Linker says:

          Thx, B. Everyone has their own style. What’s interesting is to note changes, see writers, or bloggers, anyway, taking reasonable risks (with language, photography, “design,” as I see you and others in my blogging circle experimenting). It’s good to have even a reader or two for some feedback. Most readers don’t bother with comments. I don’t usually, yet I appreciate them. There are time constraints, fear of being misinterpreted, etc. Are you familiar with Edward Tuft? Here’s an interesting site, all about design and structure and content and how to shape information effectively and efficiently (the poet in a sense has similar questions).


Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.