Di Prima Passes Away – Poetry News October 29th

Today on My Poetic Side we have an article about the death of the feminist Beats poet Diane di Prima.

Feminist Poet Diane di Prima Dies at 86

The feminist beats poet Diane di Prima has died, aged 86.  Di Prima, who was suffering from Parkinson’s disease, died in San Francisco with her partner of the last 42 years by her side.

Di prima came to the attention of the literary world at the age of just 22 when she was working as a Wall Street file clerk. The job helped fund her poetry habit, and she posted several of her works to the legendary San Francisco bookstore and publishing house City Lights, which was co-founded by the poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

At the time, City Lights had recently caused a major uproar in the literary world, having just published “Howl” by Allen Ginsberg. At the time it appeared a little audacious that this unknown poet should be seeing attention from a publishing house that was so much in the limelight, however, both Ginsberg and the author Jack Kerouac were intrigued by her work. The pair drove to New York and were very impressed with her work. The three became firm friends and members of the Beat movement and were instrumental in making dramatic changes to the course of the literature of the 20th century.

During her lifetime, Di Prima, who was very much a free spirit and saw life as something full of opportunities, wrote over 40 collections of poetry, memoirs, and novels. She was also a champion for other feminist authors and was even arrested for obscenity. She spent time living in a psychedelic commune and was also the poet laureate for San Francisco.

Born in 1934 in Brooklyn, New York, Di Prima was the only daughter in her family. She was raised with rigid and lofty expectations but followed in the footsteps of her impulsive, activist Italian grandmother. She knew she wanted to be a poet from an early age and attended a school for high achieving academics. She dropped out after two years and moved to Greenwich Village.

She became friends with the poet Ezra Pound during those early days and when he was confirmed to hospital, she visited him every day.

Her book “Memoirs of a Beatnik” became an underground classic. However, it was “Loba” that was held with the most regard. The poem which was originally released as a work in progress was seen as the female counterweight to “Howl”.

Despite her rather flamboyant lifestyle, she was a devoted mother, raising five children, something she always said gave her discipline in life that helped with her poetry. She was married twice, both relationships ending in divorce.

When she grew tired of living in New York City, she moved all over the country before finally settling in San Francisco. Here she became a member of a group of street activists, she studied Buddhism, alchemy, and Sanskrit.

Diane Di Prima is survived by Sheppard Powell, her partner of 42 years, her two brothers, five children, four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren

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