Mind Writing Slogans

Rick and Rosemary Ardinger’s Limberlost Press in Boise, Idaho, in 1994, published an edition, of 800 copies, of Allen’s classic Mind Writing Slogans. There had been, as the dates at the bottom attest, previous gatherings, but this gathering may be regarded as definitive. As Allen writes in the preface there (“Definitions, A Preface”):

Chogyam Trungpa, remarked “Writing is writing the mind”, thus the title. Ground, Path and Fruition are common stages of Tibetan style dharma teaching, often condensed into slogans for mind-training traditioned in Eastern thought.
Here, Ground means the situation of mind: we’re all amateurs at reading our own minds, but that’s all we have to work with, mutability of consciousness, appearance of chaos, our own confusion, inconsistency, awareness, humors & mental information.
Path: How to use, order and select aspects of mind, how accept and work with ordinary mind? We can only write what we know and teach same, what tricks and techniques of focus are practicable?
Fruition: What to expect, what to aim for, what result? Candor – to reveal ourselves to ourselves, reveal ourselves to others, resolve anxiety of confusion & relieve our own and others’ sufferings.
Two decades’ experience teaching poetics at Naropa Institute, half decade at Brooklyn College , and occasional workshops at Zen Center Shambhala/Dharmadhatu weekends have boiled down to brief mottos from many sources found useful to guide myself and others in the experience of “writing the mind”

The gist, the distillation, of Allen’s teaching practice, an invaluable resource.
Here are his “Mind Writing Slogans”


“First Thought is Best in Art, Second in Other Matters.”
— William Blake

I Background (Situation, Or Primary Perception)

  • “First Thought, Best Thought” — Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche
  • “Take a friendly attitude toward your thoughts.” — Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche
  • “The Mind must be loose.” — John Adams
  • “One perception must immediately and directly lead to a further perception.” — Charles Olson, “Projective Verse
  • “My writing is a picture of the mind moving.” — Philip Whalen
  • Surprise Mind — Allen Ginsberg
  • “The old pond, a frog jumps in, Kerplunk!” — Basho
  • “Magic is the total delight (appreciation) of chance.” — Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche
  • “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself. I am large. I contain multitudes.” –– Walt Whitman
  • “…What quality went to form a man of achievement, especially in literature? … Negative capability, that is, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact & reason.” — John Keats
  • “Form is never more than an extension of content. — Robert Creeley to Charles Olson
  • “Form follows function.” — Frank Lloyd Wright* (* Quoting his mentor: Louis Sullivan).
  • Ordinary Mind includes eternal perceptions. — A. G.
  • “Nothing is better for being Eternal Nor so white as the white that dies of a day.” — Louis Zukofsky
  • Notice what you notice. — A. G.
  • Catch yourself thinking. — A. G.
  • Observe what’s vivid. — A. G.
  • Vividness is self-selecting. — A. G.
  • “Spots of Time” — William Wordsworth
  • If we don’t show anyone we’re free to write anything. –– A. G.
  • “My mind is open to itself.” — Gelek Rinpoche
  • “Each on his bed spoke to himself alone, making no sound.” — Charles Reznikoff
  • II Path (Method, Or Recognition)
  • “No ideas but in things.” “… No ideas but in the Facts.” — William Carlos Williams
  • “Close to the nose.” — William Carlos Williams
  • “Sight is where the eye hits.” — Louis Zukofsky
  • “Clamp the mind down on objects.” — William Carlos Williams
  • “Direct treatment of the thing … (or object).” — Ezra Pound
  • “Presentation, not reference.” — Ezra Pound
  • “Give me a for instance.” — vernacular
  • “Show not tell.” — vernacular
  • “The natural object is always the adequate symbol.” — Ezra Pound
  • “Things are symbols of themselves.” — Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche
  • “Labor well the minute particulars, take care of the little ones.
    He who would do good for another must do it in minute particulars.
    General Good is the plea of the Scoundrel Hypocrite and Flatterer
    For Art & Science cannot exist but in minutely organized particulars.”— William Blake
  • “And being old she put a skin / on everything she said.” — W. B. Yeats
  • “Don’t think of words when you stop but to see the picture better.” — Jack Kerouac
  • “Details are the Life of Prose.” — Jack Kerouac
  • Intense fragments of spoken idiom best. — A. G.
  • “Economy of Words” — Ezra Pound
  • “Tailoring” — Gregory Corso
  • Maximum information, minimum number of syllables. –– A. G.
  • Syntax condensed, sound is solid. — A. G.
  • Savor vowels, appreciate consonants. — A. G.
  • “Compose in the sequence of musical phrase, not in sequence of a metronome.” — Ezra Pound
  • “… awareness … of the tone leading of the vowels.” — Ezra Pound
  • “… an attempt to approximate classical quantitative meters . . . — Ezra Pound
  • “Lower limit speech, upper limit song” — Louis Zukofsky
  • “Phanopoeia, Melopoeia, Logopoeia.” — Ezra Pound
  • “Sight. Sound & Intellect.” — Louis Zukofsky
  • “Only emotion objectified endures.” — Louis Zukofsky
  • III Fruition (Result, Or Appreciation)
  • Spiritus = Breathing = Inspiration = Unobstructed Breath
  • “Alone with the Alone” — Plotinus
  • Sunyata (Sanskrit) = Ku (Japanese) = Emptiness
  • “What’s the sound of one hand clapping?” — Zen koan
  • “What’s the face you had before you were born?” — Zen koan
  • Vipassana (Pali) = Clear Seeing
  • “Stop the world” — Carlos Castaneda
  • “The purpose of art is to stop time.” — Bob Dylan
  • “the unspeakable visions of the individual — Jack Kerouac
  • “I am going to try speaking some reckless words, and I want you to try to listen recklessly.” — Chuang Tzu (translated by Burton Watson)
  • “Candor” —Walt Whitman
  • “One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.” — William Shakespeare
  • Contact” — A Magazine, Nathaniel West & William Carlos Williams, editors.
  • “God appears & God is Light
    To those poor souls who dwell in Night.
    But does a Human Form Display
    To those who Dwell in Realms of Day.” — William Blake
  • “Subject is known by what she sees.” — A. G.
  • Others can measure their visions by what we see. –– A. G.
  • Candor ends paranoia. — A. G.
  • “Willingness to be Fool.” — Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche
  • “Day & Night / you’re all right.” — Gregory Corso
  • Tyger: “Humility is Beatness.” — Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche & A. G.
  • Lion: “Surprise Mind” — Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche & A. G.
  • Garuda: “Crazy Wisdom Outrageousness” — Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche
  • Dragon: “Unborn Inscrutability” — Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche
  • “To be men not destroyers” — Ezra Pound
  • Speech synchronizes mind & body — Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche
  • “The Emperor unites Heaven & Earth” — Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche
  • “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world” — Percy Bysshe Shelley
  • “Make it new” — Ezra Pound
  • “When the music changes, the walls of the city shake” — Plato
  • “Every third thought shall be my grave — W. Shakespeare, The Tempest
  • “That in black ink my love may still shine bright.” –– W. Shakespeare, Sonnets
  • “Only emotion endures” — Ezra Pound
  • “Well while I’m here I’ll
    do the work —
    and what’s the Work?
    To ease the pain of living.
    Everything else, drunken
    dumbshow.” — A. G.
  • “… Kindness, sweetest of the small notes in the world’s ache, most modest & gentle of the elements entered man before history and became his daily connection, let no man tell you otherwise.” — Carl Rakosi
  • “To diminish the mass of human and sentient sufferings.” — Gelek Rinpoche
  • Naropa Institute, July 1992, New York, March 5, 1993, New York, June 27, 1993

    Jacqueline Gens, over at Poetry Mind, in her commentary on these phrases and observations, notes their genesis in his earlier collocation, (his poem from 1986), “Cosmopolitan Greetings”  (the title-poem of a subsequent volume)  – “a primary political/literary manifesto of his aesthetic”. Some of the observations first appeared there.

    Here’s that poem:

    Cosmopolitan Greetings

    Stand up against governments, against God.
    Stay irresponsible.
    Say only what we know & imagine.
    Absolutes are Coercion.
    Change is absolute.
    Ordinary mind includes eternal perceptions.
    Observe what’s vivid.
    Notice what you notice.
    Catch yourself thinking.
    Vividness is self-selecting.
    If we don’t show anyone, we’re free to write anything.
    Remember the future.
    Freedom costs little in the U.S.
    Advise only myself.
    Don’t drink yourself to death.
    Two molecules clanking us against each other require an observer to become
    scientific data.
    The measuring instrument determines the appearance of the phenomenal
    world (after Einstein).
    The universe is subjective.
    Walt Whitman celebrated Person.
    We are observer, measuring instrument, eye, subject, Person.
    Universe is Person.
    Inside skull is vast as outside skull.
    What’s in between thoughts?
    Mind is outer space.
    What do we say to ourselves in bed at night, making no sound?
    “First thought, best thought.”
    Mind is shapely, Art is shapely.
    Maximum information, minimum number of syllables.
    Syntax condensed, sound is solid.
    Intense fragments of spoken idiom, best.
    Move with rhythm, roll with vowels.
    Consonants around vowels make sense.
    Savor vowels, appreciate consonants.
    Subject is known by what she sees.
    Others can measure their vision by what we see.
    Candor ends paranoia

    “During the period that I worked for Allen in his NYC office (1989-1994)”, she writes, “the Mind Writing Slogans underwent considerable expansion….Towards the end of his life, Allen was in the process of creating an anthology of writing to go with each slogan.”

    Sadly, he didn’t live to complete this.

    From 1985:

    “It’s a question of writing your own mind on a piece of paper. Through poetry you could find your own state of mind. (And) That’s precisely the concept of haiku: writing your mind” – “Pragmatism and Practice – An Interview with Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche”, published in the Vajradhatu Sun, June/July 1985, (and reprinted in The Collected Works of Chogyam Trungpa, Volume 8)

    May these Mind Writing Slogans continue to be of illumination and use.


  1. When I was at Naropa in 1986 and 87, Allen spent much more time teaching the truths of using strong images (phanopoeia) than he did on teaching the importance of musical sound gatherings in verse (melopoeia).

    I don’t really know why. Maybe it was a mistake?

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