Speaking and writing – lessons in Japanese flower arranging

Though [On the Road] didn’t really emerge from his brain fully formed in those frantic three weeks of writing, he did type it up on a single scroll of paper, 120 feet long. (from “Jack Kerouac’s On the Road“, on the NPR website (USA public radio))

Hanging scroll and Ikebana

Hanging scroll and Ikebana

There are several schools of Ikebana, each with its own traditions, disciplines and rules. In broad terms, however, the approach is minimalist and “subtractive”: the practitioner assembles the materials in accordance with the rules of structure and the disciplines of practice, shaping and trimming each piece until what remains articulates not merely the essence of the individual materials but the relationships between them.

In Ikebana, silence, mindfulness and attention to detail together clear away distractions and create harmony, elegance and space in the arrangement. The craft of writing has its equivalents.

Of particular significance to me is the value of articulating clearly whilst also affording opportunity to read between the lines.

This connects with the distinction between denotation and connotation. Poets, who often strive to convey their meanings within compressed forms, will often choose words with specific connotations that enrich both the text and the reader’s experience of reading.

One final thought: The narrative that played out in Kerouac’s long scroll started life as myriad details recorded in a tiny notebook.


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