Diane Di Prima (1934–2020)
An Exercise in Love
for Jackson Allen
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––––