The Poetry Deal by Diane di Prima is the fifth volume in City Lights’ San Francisco Poet Laureate Series, a collection that focuses on each San Francisco Poet Laureate and highlights their best works over the years. This collection marks the first time in decades that legendary feminist Beat poet Diane di Prima has released a full-length book of poetry. Her last collection with City Lights was Revolutionary Letters, published in 1971.
Once close friends with the likes of Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and Frank O’Hara, Prima moved from New York to San Francisco in 1968 in the midst of the Bay’s social revolution. Here, Prima found that dreams were not just to be imagined as they were in New York, but to be formed and actualized. It was this idealized and hopeful San Francisco on which Prima focused so many of her poems and which she addressed first in her Poet Laureate Inaugural Address.
San Francisco was then and still is for me the place where you can take your dreams into the streets and make them happen. Make change…The San Francisco I came to in 1968 was welcoming and sweet, as it was tough and scary.
In The Poetry Deal, Prima maps out over forty years of San Francisco history, from the culture of the late sixties, to her grief over her friends’ passings during the AIDS epidemic, to stories of her countercultural colleagues and the rapidly changing environment she has seen take place over the years in the City by the Bay. Though Prima admits that the city is different today than it was in the “Golden Years” she had once experienced, she retains a sense of hope and positivity throughout her poems, a vision of the future that she outlined clearly in her address. Laughing at the idea that her “vision” might simply be due to her aging eyesight, Prima stated:
And I let this stardust, these cataracts, the dust or bus-exhaust or whatever it is–I let it convince me that I live in the place I dreamed of when I came here. The place I knew San Francisco was going to grow into when I moved here over forty years ago … So, a San Francisco where all sexual preferences are good, all pleasure and delight is wonder-full as long as there is joy and communication…A San Francisco where no one is hungry and free meals are festive communal banquets … where folks are housed where and with whom they chose because housing is a basic human right. Where health care is free and available in all its forms … The schools are full of poetry, music, painting … Oh, did I mention that there is plenty of work?
To this day, Diane di Prima remains a poetry legend, one whose views on San Francisco and the arts will not soon be forgotten. On Tuesday October 7th, Prima will be reading at the San Francisco Public Library and all interested are encouraged to attend.
The Poetry Deal is available today at City Lights Book Store for a 30% discount or wherever books are sold. For more information on Prima’s upcoming tours and previous books, check out City Lights’ Website.