San Francisco Public Library

News Release No. 2 - January 25, 2010

For Immediate Release: January 25, 2010

Contacts: Michelle Jeffers (415) 557-4282

Inaugural Address of

San Francisco Poet Laureate Diane Di Prima

February 2, 2010, Koret Auditorium, Main Library

Poet, prose writer, playwright and teacher Diane di Prima will be giving her inaugural address as poet laureate, titled, Poetry as Spiritual Practice, on Tuesday, Feb. 2, in the Koret Auditorium at the Main Library, 100 Larkin Street, at 6 p.m.

“I’ll talk about how poetry makes connections, to our inner selves as writers, to each other, and to the world, and therefore how poetry fosters community,” said di Prima.

Di Prima has long been fostering community as a teacher, lecturer and workshop leader: “I love teaching poetry to kids, have done it all over the West, from Minnesota, Wyoming, etc. to the West Coast, and have taught all ages from kindergarten to post-graduate.”

She has read and lectured at more than 300 universities and major institutions in her decades-long career including teaching at the Zen Center, Naropa Institute School of Poetics, Esalen Institute, New College of California, California College of Arts and Crafts and the San Francisco Art Institute, among many others. She is also the author of more than 44 books of poetry and prose including Pieces of a Song (City Lights, 1990), Loba: Books I and II (Penguin, 1998) and the new expanded version of Revolutionary Letters (Last Gasp Press of San Francisco, 2007). Her work has been translated into more than 20 languages.

For the past several months, di Prima has led poetry workshops for second grade students from Corpus Christi Elementary School at her neighborhood library, the Excelsior Branch.

“The kids love working with Diane,” said Excelsior librarian Mary Hones. “(They) were given index cards, colored pencils and pens. They were not shy about expressing their thoughts about what a poem is and they believed Diane when she said they could create poems themselves.”

“I hope to bring poetry workshops into branch libraries in different parts of the city. The workshops at Excelsior will serve as a model,” said di Prima.

Di Prima will be making a second appearance at the San Francisco Main Library on March 9 at 6 p.m. She will be hosting a special poetry program, A Celebration of International Women’s Day, with Bay Area poets Nina Serrano, Janice Mirkitani, Michelle Tea, devorah major and Priscilla Lee. Each will read poems they love written by other women poets. A question and answer session and book sale by Book Bay follows the reading.

Di Prima is also at work on the second volume of her autobiography. The first volume, Recollections of My Life as a Woman (Viking, 2001), is the Library’s current On the Same Page selection.

It explores the first three decades of her extraordinary life. Born into a conservative Italian American family, di Prima grew up in Brooklyn but broke away from her roots to follow through on a lifelong commitment to become a poet, first made when she was in high school. Immersing herself in Manhattan's early 1950s bohemia, di Prima quickly emerged as a renowned poet, an influential editor, and a single mother at a time when this was unheard of.

Vividly chronicling the intense, creative cauldron of those years, she recounts her revolutionary relationships and sexuality, and how her experimentation led her to define herself as a woman. What emerges is a fascinating narrative about the courage and triumph of the imagination, and how one woman discovered her role in the world.

For the past 42 years, di Prima has lived and worked in and around San Francisco. She took part in the activities of the Diggers, doing street performance and delivering free food to 25 communes three times a week, studied meditation at the San Francisco Zen Center with Suzuki Roshi and Sanskrit at the California Institute of Asian Studies (now CIIS) and raised her five children. She currently teaches private classes and workshops in the Mission.

All programs at the Library are Free.

For more information, please call (415) 557-4277.