Friday, December 22, 2017

The importance of proper handwriting

The importance of proper handwriting
by Walter Pall

In Germany we have this Institute of Adult Education in every town. Regardless of age or former education one can study such things as languages, music, painting, pottery, astronomy, philosophy – endless offers of education for very little money but with qualified teachers.

I took a class called „Poetry“. The instructor was a man who came from Italy where he was a poetry legend. In the beginning the man spoke five minutes about the history and importance of poetry and the immense importance of proper technique. Then he handed out a blank piece of paper and a pencil to everyone. „Write a poem of twelve lines“ he said. There were a couple dozen folks in the room, female and male, old and young beginners advanced – all sorts. After 30 minutes the poems were collected. The master took the first one and said „I cannot read this terrible handwriting, do it again.“ Then about the next one he said „very bad handwriting you have, again“. After glancing over the rest he decided to teach proper writing for the rest of the lesson.

In the following week I cam back only to find that abut a third of the original students were present. Same thing - „Write a poem of twelve lines“. We all tried very hard to concentrate on handwriting. I had practiced my writing over the weekend and thought that it was pretty good. Anyway, the master found many faults again on my handwriting and, of course, also on the rest of the class. Only once he was kind of happy and briefly spoke about content – he changed some word, but we could not understand why.

In the third week I came back and found myself to be the only student of poetry left. Same procedure. I wrote my twelve lines and concentrated a lot on my writing. He looked at it for a while, changed a few words, shuffled a bit and indeed the poem seemed to be better to me, at least different. He said „Now you have started to master the most important thing necessary to write good poems“. Then he went on to criticize my spelling and syntax skills. He made it clear to me that he planned to concentrate on this for the rest of the term.

I never went back and the master, I heard, left town disappointed and vowed never to come back to these ignorants who had no talent for poetry and no will to achieve.

I gave up poetry after this.

What has this to do with bonsai? 


Mimo Krištof said...

I see the analogy.
People fall for bonsai because of it´s grandeur, beauty, because every one of them is unique, that´s what inspire us.
If we are taught techniques only from the start, discussing bad wiring, etc. only, it might lose it´s magic for us.
In bonsai as well as in poetry we strive to express ourselves, there is not much desire to discuss writing/wiring more than necessary.
That´s why I never took a poetry class and started to write my poems in the privacy of my room.
And as in bonsai I do not care much if it speaks to as much people as possible.
My old poems bring up my memories, my trees speak to my soul.

Walter Pall said...

Rafael Najmanovich: So the Italian poet was using the Japanese model of teaching bonsai to teach Poetry?

Vinny Chirayil said...

Hi Walter, i am guessing you are hinting that the Japanese bonsai masters are bad teachers and must have "killed" many students due to their rigid style & attitude :-) I can relate to that in a sports context - you once mentioned that your wife loves to play tennis but would never be a world champion. Probably, her coach's goal might be exactly that but her goal is to have some fun & exercise without sacrificing her normal life. She probably does not want to get up at 4 am for warm up and physical training, give up her favourite foods, give up her social life etc for tennis. All she desired was to hit the ball with a bat in a casual match, according to her convenience. A national level tennis coach may not be the right person to teach her or a newcomer how to play tennis.

I often feel that most beginners (in any field) should not be learning from the top experts, initially at least. Getting a casual intro to the new field by an ordinary coach at first is a far better idea and would usually be sufficient for most students. A school student just needs an ordinary teacher to start learning, not a noble prize winning expert.

Walter Pall said...


you hit the nail on the head right there.
Would you want to learn driving an ordinary car from a Nascar Racer? Or would your neighbour be better for you?

i s not really the Japanese teachers I am aiming at. It is those who have learned in Japan to become masters and think the methods they were exposed to are the right ones for everybody. This is a big misunderstanding of the nature of the average students.