If I could only write my raw heart སྙིང་ཐིག་ out uncensored, I’d blow the e-roof off of this metal box. There are one hundred thousand plus subterranean words still hidden by cast out firm mandate. Someday, I’ll bravely bust out and publish it all, just wait and see. We say goodbye to a dear beat sister today. To my beat family, I’ve written poems since I was old enough to feel, it keeps me right. To you all, fellow first thought word-heart smiths, for whom editing and punctuation matter not- we speak the same language, I owe you it all. So few left now, Diane adieu.

Diane Di Prima (1934–2020)


An Exercise in Love

for Jackson Allen

My friend wears my scarf at his waist
I give him moonstones
He gives me shell & seaweeds
He comes from a distant city & I meet him
We will plant eggplants & celery together
He weaves me cloth
                   Many have brought the gifts
                   I use for his pleasure
                   silk, & green hills
                   & heron the color of dawn
My friend walks soft as a weaving on the wind
He backlights my dreams
He has built altars beside my bed
I awake in the smell of his hair & cannot remember
his name, or my own.


Feminist Beat poet Diane di Prima was born in Brooklyn, New York. She attended Swarthmore College for two years before moving to Greenwich Village in Manhattan and becoming a writer in the emerging Beat movement. There, she developed friendships with poets Amiri Baraka, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Frank O’Hara, and Audre Lorde. After joining Timothy Leary’s intentional community in upstate New York, she moved to San Francisco in 1968.

Di Prima’s poetry mixes stream-of-consciousness with attention to form and joins politics to spiritual practice. In an interview with Jacket magazine, di Prima spoke about her life as a writer, a mother, and an activist. “I wanted everything—very earnestly and totally—I wanted to have every experience I could have, I wanted everything that was possible to a person in a female body, and that meant that I wanted to be mother.… So my feeling was, ‘Well’—as I had many times had the feeling—‘Well, nobody’s done it quite this way before but fuck it, that’s what I’m doing, I’m going to risk it.’”

Di Prima has published more than 40 books. Her poetry collections include This Kind of Bird Flies Backward (1958), the long poem Loba (1978, expanded 1998), and Pieces of a Song: Selected Poems (2001). She is also the author of the short story collection Dinners and Nightmares (1960), the semi-autobiographical Memoirs of a Beatnik (1968), and the memoir Recollections of My Life as a Woman: The New York Years (2001).

Beloved friend & fiercest poet Diane Di Prima has died––Diane was here for the start of the 100 year project that is Naropa, and even more crucially a decisive voice in American poetry & poetics, a voice in which poetry & poetics always implies political commitment to revolution––– we owe her a debt that can never be repaid, which is to say we owe her the debt of love and study and solidarity / memory eternal––––
Reposts linked back to OP.
photo: Diane Di Prima recites poems in the Gas Light Cafe, New York, 1969Photography by Fred W. McDarrah
shell photo, creative commons: https://pxhere.com/en/photo/334805
1 reply
  1. Dawn Lhamo
    Dawn Lhamo says:

    The fact is: the Light WILL increase
    It always does. Whether we think it should
    Or not. No matter how determined
    We are to be gloomy.
    We may be sure that things
    Are worse than ever.
    We may even be right.
    Try & stop it.
    Diane di Prima


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