Conversations with Diane di Prima
Collected interviews with the feminist Beat poet and cofounder of the Poets Press, known for her blended use of political and spiritual subject matter
Diane di Prima (1934–2020) was one of the most important American poets of the twentieth century, and her career is distinguished by strong contributions to both literature and social justice. Di Prima and LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka) edited The Floating Bear (1962–69), one of the most significant underground publications of the sixties. Di Prima’s poetry and prose chronicle her opposition to the Vietnam War; her advocacy of the rights of Blacks, Native Americans, and the LGBTQ community; her concern about environmental issues; and her commitment to creating a world free of exploitation and poverty. In addition, di Prima is significant due to her challenges to the roles that American women were expected to play in society. Her Memoirs of a Beatnik was a sensation, and she talks about its lasting impact as well.
Conversations with Diane di Prima presents twenty interviews ranging from 1972 to 2010 that chart di Prima’s intellectual, spiritual, and political evolution. From her adolescence, di Prima was fascinated by occult, esoteric, and magical philosophies. In these interviews readers can see the ways these concepts influenced both her personal life and her poetry and prose. We are able to view di Prima’s life course from her year at Swarthmore College; her move back to New York and then to San Francisco; her studies of Zen Buddhism; her fascination with the I Ching, Paracelsus, John Dee, Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa, alchemy, Tarot, and Kabbalah; and her later engagement with Tibetan Buddhism and work with Chögyam Trungpa. Another particularly interesting aspect of the book is the inclusion of interviews that explore di Prima’s career as an independent publisher—she founded Poets Press in New York and Eidolon Editions in California—and her commitment to promoting writers such as Audre Lorde. Taken together, these interviews reveal di Prima as both a writer of genius and an intensely honest, direct, passionate, and committed advocate of a revolution in consciousness.
"And if some statements annoy or seem naive, there are fascinating sections in here about di Prima’s surprising friendship with Robert Duncan, Allen Ginsberg’s Naropa Institute, small press publishing, 9/11, gender, feminism and political correctness, painters and painting, and – however critical – some great reminiscences about the alternative cultures and communities in San Francisco and New York. Contradictory, confused and questioning, di Prima is nevertheless revealed as a fascinating, opinionated interviewee, offering optimism and possibility, despite herself."- Rupert Loydell, Tears in the Fence.com
"Conversations spans nearly the entire latter half of di Prima’s life. Throughout these interviews, she dispenses essential practical advice and invaluable lore, mixed with bits of frank gossip concerning matters such as poetry, alchemy, parenting, civics, personal relationships, astrology, and health.. . . , these interviews offer insightful glimpses into the life of a poet who maneuvered her way through the world’s complexities in part by imagining them anew."- Patrick James Dunagan, Rain Taxi