di Prima, Diane

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di PRIMA, Diane

Nationality: American. Born: New York City, 6 August 1934. Attended Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania, 1951–53. Family: Married 1) Alan S. Marlowe in 1962 (divorced 1969) 2) Grant Fisher in 1972 (divorced 1975); has four daughters and one son. Career: Contributing editor, Kulchur magazine, New York, 1960–61; coeditor, with LeRoi Jones, 1961–63, and editor, 1963–69, Floating Bear magazine, New York; also associated with Yugen, Signal, Guerilla, San Francisco Sunday Paper, and Rallying Point. Publisher, Poets Press, 1964–69, and Eidolon Editions, San Francisco, since 1974. Affiliated with Wingbow Press, Berkeley, California. Founder, with Alan Marlowe and others, New York Poets Theater, 1961–65. Teacher in the Poetry-in-the-Schools program, 1971–75; visiting faculty member, Naropa Institute, Boulder, Colorado; artist-in-residence, Napa State Hospital, 1976–77. Member of the Core Faculty, New College of California, San Francisco, 1980–87. Since 1981 working privately as a psychic and healer. Founded in 1983, with Janet Carter, Carl Grundberg, and Sheppard Powell, and worked as writer and teacher, 1983–91, San Francisco Institute of Magical and Healing Arts. Senior lecturer, California College of Arts and Crafts, Oakland, 1990–92; visiting faculty, San Francisco Art Institute, 1992; adjunct faculty, California Institute of Integral Studies, 1994. Columnist, Mama Bear's News and Notes, 1987–93, and Harbin Quarterly, 1992–93. Artist: Individual shows—Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, 1974; Point Reyes Dance Palace, 1977; San Francisco Dharmadhatu, 1985; Naropa Institute, 1989. Awards: National Endowment for the Arts grant, 1966, 1973; Coordinating Council of Little Magazines grant, 1967, 1970; Lapis Foundation, 1978, 1979; Institute for Aesthetic Development, 1986; Lifetime Service award, National Poetry Association, 1993. Address: c/o Wingbow Press, 2940 West 7th Street, Berkeley, California 94710, U.S.A.



This Kind of Bird Flies Backward. New York, Totem Press, 1958.

The Monster. New Haven, Connecticut, Penny Poems, 1961.

The New Handbook of Heaven. San Francisco, Auerhahn Press, 1963.

Unless You Clock In. Palo Alto, California, Patchen Cards, 1963.

Combination Theatre Poem and Birthday Poem for Ten People. New York, Brownstone Press, 1965.

Haiku. Topanga, California, Love Press, 1967.

Earthsong: Poems 1957–59, edited by Alan S. Marlowe. New York, Poets Press, 1968.

Hotel Albert. New York, Poets Press, 1968.

New Mexico Poem, June-July 1967. New York, Roodenko, 1968.

The Star, The Child, The Light. Privately printed, 1968.

L.A. Odyssey. New York, Poets Press, 1969.

New As…. Privately printed, 1969.

The Book of Hours. San Francisco, Brownstone Press, 1970.

Kerhonkson Journal 1966. Berkeley, California, Oyez, 1971.

Prayer to the Mothers. Privately printed, 1971.

So Fine. Santa Barbara, California, Yes Press, 1971.

XV Dedications. Santa Barbara, California, Unicorn Press, 1971.

Revolutionary Letters. San Francisco, City Lights, 1971.

The Calculus of Letters. Privately printed, 1972.

Loba, Part 1. Santa Barbara, California, Capra Press, 1973.

Freddie Poems. Point Reyes, California, Eidolon, 1974.

North Country Medicine. Privately printed, 1974.

Brass Furnace Going Out: Song, After an Abortion. Syracuse, New York, Pulpartforms-Intrepid Press, 1975.

Selected Poems 1956–1975. Plainfield, Vermont, North Atlantic, 1975; revised edition, 1977.

Loba as Eve. New York, Phoenix Book Shop, 1975.

Loba, Part 2. Point Reyes, California, Eidolon, 1976.

Loba, Parts 1–8. Berkeley, California, Wingbow Press, 1978.

Wyoming Series. San Francisco, Eidolon Editions, 1988.

The Mysteries of Vision. Santa Barbara, California, Am Here Books, 1988.

Pieces of a Song: Selected Poems. San Francisco, City Lights, 1990.

Seminary Poems. Point Reyes, California, Floating Island, 1991.

The Mask Is the Path of the Star. Louisville, Kentucky, Thinker Review International, 1993.

22 Death Poems. Ellsworth, Maine, Backwoods Broadsides, 1996.

Loba. New York, Penguin, 1998.


Paideuma (produced New York, 1960).

The Discontentment of the Russian Prince (produced New York, 1961).

Murder Cake (produced New York, 1963).

Like (produced New York, 1964).

Poets Vaudeville, music by John Herbert McDowell (produced New York, 1964). New York, Feed Folly Press, 1964.

Monuments (produced New York, 1968).

The Discovery of America (produced New York, 1972).

Whale Honey (produced San Francisco, 1975; New York, 1976).

ZipCode: Collected Plays. Minneapolis, Minnesota, Coffee House Press, 1994.


The Calculus of Variation. New York, Poets Press, 1966.

Spring and Autumn Annals. San Francisco, Frontier Press, 1966.

Memoirs of a Beatnik. New York, Olympia Press, 1969.

Short Stories

Dinners and Nightmares. New York, Corinth, 1961; revised edition, 1974.


Notes on the Summer Solstice. Privately printed, 1969.

Editor, Various Fables from Various Places. New York, Putnam, 1960.

Editor, War Poems. New York, Poets Press, 1968.

Editor, with LeRoi Jones, The Floating Bear: A Newsletter, Numbers 1–37. La Jolla, California, Laurence McGilvery, 1973.

Translator, with others, The Man Condemned to Death, by Jean Genet. New York, Poets Press, 1963.

Translator, Seven Love Poems from the Middle Latin. New York, Poets Press, 1965.


Manuscript Collection: Southern Illinois University, Carbondale.

Critical Studies: Interview with Anne Waldman, in The Beat Road, edited by Arthur Winfield Knight and Kit Knight, California, Pennsylvania, Unspeakable Visions of the Individual, 1984; "Diane di Prima: Extending La famiglia" by Blossom S. Kirschenbaum, in MELUS (Amherst, Massachusetts), 14(3–4) Fall/Winter 1987; by Carl Solomon, in American Book Review, 13(2), June 1991; by Charles Marowitz, in American Book Review, 15(2), June 1993.

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Diane di Prima is, sadly, the only major female poet to emerge out of the beat generation's upheaval in American poetry. Her work lucidly reflects as well as transcends beat assumptions, however, as radical spirits permeate her writing, including emancipatory romanticism, anarchism, feminism, and chthonic esotericism. A resilient web of assertive traditions and practices informs her work, revealing a powerful and uncompromising history of herself as woman, artist, citizen, and sage. Early beat collections like This Kind of Bird Flies Backward retain their clarity and unity of purpose. The magical poems in The New Handbook of Heaven do not cancel out the polemics of Revolutionary Letters, and the exacting lyric particulars of Kerhonkson Journal l966 complement the transgressive charm of Memoirs of a Beatnik.

Loba is a major serial poem that synthesizes much of di Prima's earlier work and enters more deeply into ritual realms and the hermetic. Through meta-actual female myths and symbols expressed and embodied in Loba, Lilith, Eve, Iseult, and Persephone, the poet restores disallowed literary and mythic examples of female power and history into a grand narrative. The dialectic of wildness and civilization as feminine spheres of action and re-creation is compellingly sustained.

Di Prima's work has participated in and contributed to many critical schisms in American culture—the l950s beat movement, the 1960s countercultural carnivals of self and collective politics, the redefining of feminine consciousness during the 1970s, and the teaching of esoteric praxis and healing arts in the l980s. The poet has begun work on her autobiography, to be titled Recollections of My Life as a Woman, which should provide a broader experiential knowledge of these epochs, just as her poetic work has offered a richly emblematic unfolding of significant visible and invisible histories.

—David Meltzer