Remembering Diane Di Prima

Diane di Prima (1934-2020)

From “Statement From the Family of Poet Diane di Prima”

Poet, Playwright, Activist, Buddhist, Feminist pioneer, Diane di Prima made her transition on the morning of Sunday October 25. Diane had been fighting a long battle with a number of major health challenges among them Parkinson’s Disease and Sjogren’s Syndrome. She died peacefully and fearlessly at SF General Hospital with her beloved husband Sheppard by her side. Despite her Parkinson’s diagnosis di Prima had no cognitive impairment and was actively working on several books until two weeks before she passed away.

A San Francisco Poet Laureate emeritus and author of more than four dozen volumes of poetry, prose and plays. Her work has been translated into twenty languages. Diane di Prima almost singlehandedly added a strong womanist voice to the Beat writers movement. Famously published by City Lights legend Larry Ferlinghetti, Diane was a founder of the New York Village Beats and the San Francisco North Beach writers scene. Author of the powerful Revolutionary Letters di Prima was a lifelong activist both on the page and in the streets reading and fundraising for countless causes, festivals, benefits and protests. An incredibly versatile writer with volumes ranging from the early poetry of This Kind of Bird Flies Backwards; to the prose of Dinners and Nightmares to the epic verse of her long form poem Loba; to the steamy pages of Memoirs of a Beatnik to her hundreds of beautiful love poems, haikus, abstract plays as well as writings on spirituality, anarchy and alchemy. She edited the newspaper The Floating Bear with Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones) and was co-founder of the New York Poets Theatre and founder of the Poets Press. She has been awarded the National Poetry Association’s Lifetime Service Award and the Fred Cody Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Diane was a devout Buddhist, studying under Suzuki Roshi, Trungpa Rimpoche, Lama Tharchin and others. She often attended meditation retreats, studied and translated Sanskrit texts, and taught classes, was a cofounder of the San Francisco Institute of Magical and Healing Arts (SIMHA.)
She is survived by a large family who adore her.
Diane di Prima was the loving mother of five children : Jeanne, Dominique, Alexander, Tara and Rudi. She was the grandmother to five: Christopher, Chani, Julie, Maceo and Ruby and she was a Great Grandmother to three: Maia, Niomi and Anahla.
Diane is also survived by her two brothers Frank and Richard DiPrima.
She was the wife and soulmate to her loving husband Sheppard Powell who is an artist and photographer. They share a deep commitment to Tibetan Buddhism and to each other.
There will be a small private prayer service and virtual memorial. A public tribute to Diane
di Prima is planned for as soon as CoVid permits..

Some obituaries and memorial notices:

Sam Whiting obituary in the San Francisco Chronicle

Emily Langer in the Washington Post 

Neil Genzlinger in the New York Times

Steve Marble in the LA Times

USA Today (AP wire-service)

Nikko Odiseos for Shambhala

Obituary Notice  from the Poetry Foundation

Andrew Limbong for NPR

Cynthia Haven  for Stanford University

Roberto Galavernio for Corriere Della Sera (Italy)

Jeremy Piette for Liberation (France)

Antoine Oury for ActuaLitté

Luna Miguel for El Diaro (Spain)

Novinky  (Czech Republic)

And a few from the blog world:

Frank Beacham’s Journal

Marc Stein on Revolutionary Letters

Simon Sweetman – Off The Tracks

Jerry Cimino et al at The Beat Museum

Here’s Diane at the famous 1976 Last Waltz event, reading:

Here’s Diane back in 2008  at the University of California,  reading in Robert Hass’s “Lunch Poems” series:

Here’s Diane (from back in the ’80’s) reading from Revolutionary Letters ( ever-powerful, ever-pertinent to these times):

Here’s Diane and Michael McClure reading together in 1997 in Golden Gate Park, remembering “the Summer of Love”:

We miss you, Diane.

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