Diane DiPrima

Diane di Prima (born August 6, 1934) is an American poet.


Early life

Di Prima was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1934. She attended Hunter College High School and Swarthmore College before dropping out to be a poet in Manhattan. Her official online biography notes that she is "a second generation American of Italian descent" and that "Her maternal grandfather, Domenico Mallozzi, was an active anarchist, and associate of Carlo Tresca and Emma Goldman."[1] Di Prima began writing as a child and by the age of 19 was corresponding with Ezra Pound and Kenneth Patchen. Her first book of poetry, This Kind of Bird Flies Backward, was published in 1958 by Hettie and LeRoi Jones' Totem Press.

Involvement with the Beats

Di Prima spent the late 1950s and early 1960s in Manhattan, where she participated in the emerging Beat movement. She spent some time in California at Stinson Beach and Topanga Canyon, returned to New York City and eventually moved to San Francisco permanently. Di Prima was a bridge figure between the Beat movement and the later hippies, as well as between East Coast and West Coast artists. She edited The Floating Bear with Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones) and was co-founder of the New York Poets Theatre and founder of the Poets Press. On several occasions she faced charges of obscenity by the United States government due to her work with the New York Poets Theatre and the newspaper The Floating Bear. In 1961 she was actually arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for publishing two poems in The Floating Bear. According to di Prima, police persistently harassed her due to the nature of her poetry. [2] In 1966, she spent some time at Millbrook with Timothy Leary's psychedelic community and printed the first two editions of "Psychodelic Prayers" by Leary in Spring 1966. In 1969, she wrote a fictionalized, erotic account detailing her experience in the Beat movement titled Memoirs of a Beatnik. From 1974 to 1997, di Prima taught Poetry at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, of the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado, sharing the program with fellow Beats Allen Ginsberg (Co-founder of the program), William Burroughs, Gregory Corso, and others. In 2001, she published Recollections of My Life as a Woman: The New York Years.


In the late 1960s, she moved permanently to California, where she has lived ever since. Here, di Prima became involved with the Diggers and studied Buddhism, Sanskrit, Gnosticism and alchemy. In 1966 she signed a vow of tax resistance to protest the war in Vietnam.[3] She also published her major work, the long poem Loba, in 1978, with an enlarged edition in 1998. Her selected poems, Pieces of a Song, was published in 1990 and a memoir, Recollections of My Life as a Woman, in 2001. She is also a prose writer, memoirist, playwright, social justice activist and teacher. Di Prima has authored nearly four dozen books, with her work translated into more than 20 languages. In 2009, di Prima was named the Poet Laureate of San Francisco. A movement is currently underway to have a street in the city named in her honor.[4] Diane read two of her poems at the iconic farewell concert The Last Waltz, by The Band. The first was "Get Yer Cut Throat off My Knife", the second, "Revolutionary Letter #4". Since the 1960s, she has worked as a photographer and a collage artist, and in the past 10 years she has taken up watercolor painting. According to her official website, she also teaches workshops, with her most popular being one where she teaches attendees how to combine paintings or photographs with the printed word. Di Prima has several poetic works that are in progress, including Last Gasp Press's expanded edition of Revolutionary Letters, which includes over 20 new poems. According to the Poetry Foundation, she has "taught at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at the Naropa Institute, the California College of Arts and Crafts, and in the Masters-in-Poetics program at the New College of California." Di Prima's works are held at "the University of Louisville, Indiana University, Southern Illinois University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s libraries." [5] Her poetry often presents a struggle with the social and political disturbances that occurred in the 1960's and 1970s. Although many of her poems did have a social or political slant, much of her writing also involved issues with personal relationships and her life. A majority of her newest material has female paradigms and religious practice, specifically Eastern philosophies. [6] Di Prima's poem "Brass Furnace Going out" is one of her most famous poems, which deals with an abortion that she had, against her better judgement and in spite of her belief that abortion was wrong, because LeRoi Jones wanted her to do so and made her believe that going through with the procedure would prove her love to him. The poem was written after she returned home from receiving the abortion and it is written directly to the aborted baby whose presence remains throughout the poem. In section II of the poem, di Prima writes, "I want you in a bottle to send to your father/ with a long bitter note. I want him to know/ I'll not forgive you, or him for not being born/ for drying up, quitting/ at the first harsh treatment/ as if the whole thing were a rent party/& somebody stepped in your feet" Here we see di Prima's resentment of the fact that Jones pressured her to get the abortion. By writing vividly of her procedure, her feelings and resentment toward Jones and the baby, and the possibilities that may have come to fruition if she had been allowed to carry to term, di Prima is allowing the reader to experience her pain and she creates a relationship with other women who have been in similar situations.

Personal life

Di Prima is the mother of five children: Jeanne di Prima, Dominique di Prima, Alex Marlowe, Tara Marlowe, and Rudi di Prima. She was married to Alan Marlowe in 1962 (divorced 1969) and in 1972 to Grant Fisher (divorced 1975.) [7]


  • This Kind of Bird Flies Backward, Totem Press, New York, 1958
  • Dinners and Nightmares (short stories), Corinth Books, 1961 (reissued Last Gasp, 1998)
  • Seven Love Poems from the Middle Latin (translations), The Poets Press, 1965
  • Poems for Freddie, 1966
  • War Poems (editor), Poets Press, New York, 1968
  • Memoirs of a Beatnik, Olympia Press, 1969 (reissued with new afterword, Last Gasp, 1988)
  • The Book of Hours, 1970
  • Selected Poems: 1956-1975, North Atlantic Books, Plainfield, 1975
  • Loba, Part II, Eidolon Editions, Point Reyes, 1976
  • Selected Poems: 1956-1976, North Atlantic Books, 1977
  • Loba, Parts 1-8, 1978
  • Revolutionary Letters, City Lights, 1971
  • Pieces of a Song: Selected Poems, City Lights, 1990
  • Recollections of My Life as a Woman The New York Years, Viking Press, NY, 2001



  • Charters, Ann (ed.). The Portable Beat Reader. New York: Penguin Books, 1992. ISBN 0-670-83885-3 (hc); ISBN 0-14-015102-8 (pbk)
  • di Prima, Diane, and Jones, LeRoi [Imanu Amiri Baraka], eds. The Floating Bear, a newsletter: Numbers 1-37, 1961-1969. Introduction and notes adapted from interviews with Diane di Prima. La Jolla, California: Laurence McGilvery, 1973. ISBN 0-910938-54-7} (library binding)
  • di Prima, Diane. Recollections Of My Life As A Woman. Viking USA (2001). ISBN 0-670-85166-3

External links

  • Diane di Prima Official Website
  • WorldCat catalog)
  • Di Prima Papers at University of Louisville
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • RE/Search
  • "Add-Verse" a poetry-photo-video project di Prima participated in
  • 1992 Interview with di Prima
  • 2002 Interview with di Prima
  • 2010 Interview with di Prima
  • Women Make Movies
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