Mind Writing Slogans of Allen Ginsberg



Chögyam 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 & select aspects of mind, how accept & work with ordinary mind? We can only write what we know & teach same, what tricks & 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 & others' sufferings.

Two decades' experiences teaching poetics at Naropa Institute, half decade at Brooklyn College, and occasional workshops at Zen Center & Shambhala/Dharmadhatu weekends have been boiled down to brief mottoes from many sources found useful to guide myself and others in the experience of "writing the mind."    Allen Ginsberg, 2/19/94 (Courtesy Allen Ginsberg Trust)

"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 ofcontent. — Robert Creeley to Charles Olson
"Form follows function." — Frank Lloyd Wright*
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." — W. C. Williams
"Sight is where the eye hits." — Louis Zukofsky
"Clamp the mind down on objects." — W C. Williams
"Direct treatment of the thing ... (or object)." — Ezra Pound, 1912
"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 Castafleda
"The purpose of art is to stop time." — Bob Dylan
"the unspeakable visions of the individual — J. K.
"I am going to try speaking some reckless words, and I want you to try to listen recklessly." — Chuang Tzu (Tr. Burton Watson)
"Candor" —Whitman
"One touch of nature makes the whole world kin." — W. Shakespeare
"Contact" — A Magazine, Nathaniel West & W. C. Williams, Eds.
"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." — W. 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" — 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
* Quoting his mentor; Louis Sullivan.

Allen Ginsberg "Mind Writing Slogans" copyright © 1992, 1993 by Allen Ginsberg, in What Book: Buddha Poems From Beat To Hiphop, Gary Gach, ed., copyright © 1998 by Gary Gach. Parallax Press.

My Commentary on the Mind Writing Slogans

In the late 1980's, Allen began to formulate and teach his MInd Writing Slogans, a three-part series of dharma slogans relating to the craft of writing from the perspective of First Thought, Best Thought. These slogans are divided into the traditional Buddhist tripartite of ground, path, and fruition and modeled on Atisha's famous slogans for training the mind in compassion and selflessness.

Ginsberg first began to compile these slogans in his list poem "Cosmopolitan Greetings," a primarily political/literary manifesto of his aesthetic.

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.
Asvise 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.

Allen Ginsberg

During the period that I worked for Allen in his NYC office (1989-1994), the Mind Writing Slogans underwent considerable expansion growing to 84 sloganS. His dates of composition are indicated as: Naropa Institute, July 1992; New York, March 5, 1993; and New York, June 27, 1993. Towards the end of his life, Allen was in the process of creating an anthology of writing to go with each slogan.

The slogans were deeply influenced by Chogyam Trungpa's personal training in perception encapsulated by the now famous, First thought, Best Thought, a collaborative designation between Ginsberg & Trungpa, loosely based on Blake's phrase, "First Thought is Best in Art, Second in Other Matters." The slogans are drawn from a variety of literary and dharma sources following the Buddhist three part logic of moving in part I-- the ground, from situation or primary perception, to part II--the path method or recognition of the situation/perception, to Part III--fruition/result or as Ginsberg defines it, appreciation. In their totality, the logic of the mind writing slogans is a training in how to perceive the world clearly, write from this vantage, and arrive at a final work. They are also useful in terms of just ordinary mind, whether one writes or not.

Jacqueline Gens