Diane di Prima


Feminist Beat poet Diane di Prima was born in Brooklyn, New York. She attended Swarthmore College for two years before moving to Greenwich Village in Manhattan and becoming a writer in the emerging Beat movement. Di Prima’s poetry mixes stream-of-consciousness with attention to form and joins politics to spiritual practice. In an interview with Jacket magazine, di Prima spoke about her life as a writer, a mother, and an activist. “I wanted everything—very earnestly and totally—I wanted to have every experience I could have, I wanted everything that was possible to a person in a female body, and that meant that I wanted to be mother.… So my feeling was, ‘Well’—as I had many times had the feeling—‘Well, nobody’s done it quite this way before but fuck it, that’s what I’m doing, I’m going to risk it.’” Di Prima was named Poet Laureate of San Francisco in 2009. She was awarded the National Poetry Association’s Lifetime Service Award and the Fred Cody Award for Lifetime Achievement, and she also received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Committee on Poetry, the Lapis Foundation, and the Institute for Aesthetic Development. St. Lawrence University granted her an honorary doctorate. She taught at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at the Naropa Institute, the California College of Arts and Crafts, and in the Masters-in-Poetics program at the New College of California. Selections of her papers are held at the University of Louisville, Indiana University, Southern Illinois University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s libraries. Di Prima lived in northern California until her death in late 2020.


I think I forgot to turn

off the radio when

I left my mother’s



In Hasidic Judaism

it is said that before we

are born an angel

enters the womb,

strikes us on the


and we forget all

that we knew of

previous lives—

all that we know

of heaven


I think that I forgot

to forget.

I was born into two

places at once—


In one, it was chilly

lonely physical &



in the other, I stayed

in the dimension of

Spirit. What I knew,

I knew.

I did not forget


The world of spirit


held me in its arms.





Literary Movements:

Beat Generation

Anthology Years:



Childhood & Coming of Age

Faith & Hope

Memory & The Past

Literary Devices:


a line break interrupting the middle of a phrase which continues on to the next line


words or phrases repeated one after another in quick succession


a situation that seems to contradict itself


the attribution of human qualities to a non-human thing


The use of multiple words with the same root in different forms.