The Poetry Deal
The photograph on the cover of The Poetry Deal (City Lights Books) grabs you right away: a petite, bird-like figure with thinning grey hair and sparkling eyes looks directly out at you with a wry smile; as if to say: “Yes, I’m still at it.” This is the legendary Diane di Prima at age 80: living proof that poetry is a lifetime occupation. Di Prima was selected as San Francisco’s Poet Laureate in 2014; The Poetry Deal opens with her inaugural address, in which she talks about the ways in which San Francisco has changed since she moved there from New York City in 1968. In 1968 “the Free Bank lived on top of my refrigerator; it was a shoebox full of money. […] Anyone who needed cash could come by the house and take some.” The San Francisco of 2014 has become so expensive that “dancers, poets, [and] musicians are moving somewhere else”; creative artists in all major cities – New York, Paris, London, Vancouver, Berlin – know what she’s talking about.
Another California-based poet of similar vintage is Gary Snyder, now 84, whose 2004 collection, Danger on Peaks (Counterpoint), has just been re-issued in a “Deluxe Audio Edition” that includes 2 CDs of Snyder reading the poems in a voice as dry as sagebrush: “This present moment // that lives on // to become // long ago.” The Beats go on.