The poet Diane di Prima has died. She had suffered a long illness and was 86. She was a force. Feminist writer and activist, memoirist, a poet from her teen years – she was known not just for her own brilliant work but as a teacher and for her friendships with other important writers, among them Frank O’Hara, Allen Ginsberg and Audre Lorde.
The Beat movement is known for the men – Ginsberg, Kerouac and Burroughs in particular – but di Prima was a crucial part of that scene. She maintained friendships with many of them, she outwrote the lot of them and she exposed them and the movement in her brilliant Memoirs of a Beatnik.
The Beats are remember for the men – for the machoism – but look here in this photo. There’s di Prima alongside Gregory Corso, Ginsberg and Burroughs.
In her activism she would take on men, she would promote and defend women, she became an activist for various social justice causes including fat-acceptance. She lectured publicly, educated and continued to write – publishing journals, letters, poetry and memoirs. Some 40+ books across her long, brilliant career.
At 14 she decided to be a poet. She wrote every day after. For that alone she deserves to be remembered. She is an influence. A hero. But check out her reading her work too. A brilliant, fierce, proud voice.
R.I.P. Diane di Prima