Archive for the ‘Kerouac’ Category


Recently, my cyber-friend Montucky tapped me for a ROAR award. Thank you, Terry! Now, the rules for being A Roar for Powerful Words recipient state that I must share three writing tips and pass the award on to three more bloggers worthy of recognition and esteem.

When it comes to writing, I turn to “beginner’s mind.” And really the only thing that I know for sure is this: you need a pen or pencil, a piece of paper and the mind.

While I use my iBook for blogging, I use a notebook to access the fresh and unedited part of my mind. For ten years, I have done “writing practice” a la Natalie Goldberg. She continues to be my great writing teacher and the lineage includes Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Suzuki Roshi and Danin Katagiri Roshi.

If you want to write, you need to read a lot and, oddly enough, write. And don’t get too attached to the outcome. Perhaps I should say, “practice non-attachment.” As Nike says, “Just do it!” If you’re new to “My Inner Edge” you’ll soon discover that I read a lot of poetry. I don’t write a lot of poems, yet poems inform my writing.

I like to write in different places–particularly in cafes that have just the right amount of ambient noise to occupy the judgmental part of my mind. I also like to write with a friend or a group of writers and then read aloud with “no comment.” Reading your work aloud is important and allows you to hear your own voice.

Here is one of my favorite quotes about writing–it’s from The Writing Life by Annie Dillard:

One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.

Having said what I know about writing, I bestow this award on The Dream Antilles, Bogs Darking and The Doughtie House Exchange


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“Be in love with your life” is #4 on Jack Kerouac’s List, Belief & Technique for Modern Prose.

#21–“Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind..”
#28–“Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better…”
# 1–“Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy…”

These reminders are for the bold and courageous writers who joined me today to “Write Into the Present Moment” and for anyone else who cares to forge a relationship with their own mind through writing. I bow to you.

Through the branches of a tree
Utterly leafless
The sky deepens.

– KOKO –

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On Sunday, I’ll be teaching a day-long workshop on writing, Write Into the Present Moment. Is this because I am a great, renowned, published writer? No, it’s because I love to listen, I love to read and I love to contact the bottom of my mind through “writing practice.”

Ten years ago, I connected with Natalie Goldberg and “joined the lineage” of Zen writing practioners. I fell into love with her method of timed writing:

“Keep your hand moving; don’t cross out; be specific (not the tree; the magnolia–not the flower in the window; the geranium); use original detail; don’t think–don’t get logical; lose control; don’t worry about spelling or punctuation; go for the jugular…AND, you’re free to write the worst trash in America…start with, ‘I remember’ or ‘I don’t remember’ or ‘I’m thinking about’ or ‘I’m not thinking about’ and keep your hand moving–10 minutes, GO.”

Natalie’s great writing teachers were Katagiri Roshi and Allen Ginsberg. Katagiri Roshi taught her how to sit meditation and empty her mind in the sparse Minnesota Zen Center. At Naropa’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, Allen Ginsberg taught her that “when the mind is shapely, the writing is shapely.”

And what do you need to write? A pen, a few sheets of paper and the mind. You need to read a lot; to learn to savor different kinds of writing and different voices. AND you need to read your own work aloud to another human being.

The most levelling practice that I learned from Natalie was to listen and make no comment when someone reads aloud. The idea is that the writing is not good or bad…we simply need to let the words and images land in our consciousness. After many rounds of reading aloud, we learned to do a “recall.” To repeat exactly a phrase that caught our attention…I vividly remember a man from the mid-west describing a refrigerator as a “husky Kelvinator.” That image immediately put me in my grandmother’s 1950’s kitchen in West Pittston, Pennsylvania. It landed indelibly in my awareness.

So, wherever you are on Sunday, grab a pen and a piece of paper. Take ten minutes–take a half hour and meet us in the zendo of writing practice…remember, “keep your hand moving.”

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…is number 29 on Jack Kerouac’s list titled Belief and Technique for Modern Prose.
Number 8 is: “Write what you want bottomless from bottom of the mind.”

Here are a few more…
24. No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge
25. Write for the world to read and see yr exact pictures of it
2. Submissive to everything, open, listening
16. The jewel center of interest is the eye within the eye
17. Write in recollection and amazement for yourself
19. Accept loss forever
4. Be in love with yr life
5. Something that you feel will find its own form

I think it’s good to know and remember these things. Besides collecting questions, I also collect cryptic/ specific advice from wonderful teachers.

From Suzuki Roshi, I love, “No trace: When you do something, you should burn yourself completely, like a good bonfire, leaving no trace of yourself.”

And, “Repetition: If you lose the spirit of repetition, your practice will become quite difficult.”

And, “Control: To give your sheep or cow a large, spacious meadow is the way to control him.”

From Katagiri Roshi, I love, “Continue under all circumstances; don’t be tossed away; make positive effort for the good every day.”

Light Steps

One stepped lightly in an evening,
Yellow flowers, purple flowers
Flowed along the green grass rug.
The sun had not yet set, the moon was already high.
Laughter resounded hills and mountains,
Somewhere, one could hear the determined mind wakening.


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