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Diane Di Prima Papers

Identifier: 1991-0042

Scope and Content

The collection contains primarily correspondence between Di Prima and colleagues, friends and family. Also included are journals and diaries, poetry and a manuscript of Memoirs of a Beatnik.


  • undated, 1934-1990


The collection is open and available for research.

Restrictions on Use

Permission to publish from these Papers must be obtained in writing from both the University of Connecticut Libraries and the owner(s) of the copyright.


Diane Di Primais best known for her work as a Beat poet and writer, but she is also distinguished as a feminist and civil rights supporter. Born on August 6, 1934 in Brooklyn, New York, Di Prima is the only daughter and eldest child of Francis and Emma Di Prima. Di Prima's maternal grandfather, Domenico Mallozi, was an active anarchist and friend of Carlo Tresca, the famed Italian anarchist and advocate of workers rights. Mallozi's influence on his granddaughter is evident in her life and her work. In 1962, Di Prima married her first husband, writer Alan Marlowe, whom she divorced in 1969. In 1972 she married Grant Fisher whom she divorced in 1975. Di Prima is the mother of five children: Jeanne, Dominique, Alexander, Tara, and Rudra.

Because her parents were college educated, Di Prima was afforded educational opportunities that many middle-class Americans, male or female, did not during this era. It was at the prestigious Hunter College High School in New York City that she began writing. Following high school, she attended Swarthmore College for two years until 1953 when she left to immerse herself in the Bohemian lifestyle of lower Manhattan's Greenwich Village. The confluence of artistic energies in Greenwich Village provided Di Prima a setting to inspire her writing to which by now she had devoted her full attention. She is an associate of Audre Lord, Ezra Pound, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsburg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Le Roi Jones, and Timothy Leary.

Beat writers and artists, dissatisfied with the status-quo during the 1950s, distrusted authority figures and challenged cultural norms throughout their lives in an effort to promote personal freedom. The Beats experimented with new ways of thinking, medicated states, and lifestyles to enhance their understanding of the world. Di Prima by her own account experimented with drugs. She participated in former Harvard professor Timothy Leary's Millbrook, New York LSD experimentation in 1966.

Many Beat luminaries encountered difficulties with the law and the government. Diane Di Prima was no exception. She personally faced charges of obscenity on multiple occasions by the United States government concerning her work through the New York Poets Theatre and the newspaper The Floating Bear. Di Prima was initially co-editor of The Floating Bear from 1961-1963 with Le Roi Jones. From 1963-1969, she was the sole editor of the influential underground newspaper in Greenwich Village. In 1961, Di Prima was arrested by the FBI for alleged obscenity of two poems published in The Floating Bear. The case was thrown out by a grand jury. The New York Poets Theatre, an art theatre she co-founded with choreographer James Warring, operated for four seasons from 1961-1965. In 1963, The Poets Theatre was implicated in an obscenity case involving Jean Genet's movie, Chant d'Armou. She and Warring fought the government's charges. Again, Di Prima won her obscenity case against the United States. By her own accounts, she was consistently harassed by the law enforcement concerning the content of her work.

Di Prima, along with husband Alan Marlowe, founded the Poets Press in New York City (1964-1969). They designed, printed, and published books by various contemporaries. Poets Press published the first books by Audre Lord, Di Prima's high school classmate, David Henderson, Clive Matson, and Herbert Huncke. By the end of the 1960s, Di Prima moved to the west coast to continue her writing. She became involved in a commune known as the "Diggers" who provided free-food to anyone in need. She also became a follower of Zen priest Shunryu Suzuki Roshi in San Francisco. This fostered her spirituality and her studies in eastern religion.

In 1958, Di Prima published her first book of poetry, This Kind of Bird Flies Backwards. She is perhaps most well-known for her later works. Memoirs of a Beatnik, published in 1969, described her experiences as part of the Beat culture in 1950s New York. Revolutionary Letters, a series of poems in the form of letters published in 1971 concern Di Prima's thoughts on her counter-culture beliefs. Loba, published in 1973 is a mythological poem concerning a strong female protagonist with feminist, pagan, and natural world themes. This is widely considered to be her best work.

From 1971 to 1975, Di Prima traveled extensively for the Poetry-in-the-Schools program sponsored by the National Endowment on the Arts. She taught students ranging from elementary to college level. Since then, Di Prima has taught poetry primarily at the New College of California as well as the Naropa Institute for writing in Boulder, Colorado. She was one of the founders of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa in 1974. In 1980, Di Prima was a co-founder and core faculty member of the Masters in Poetics Program at New College of California. Writing, as she states, is her life and she has been teaching writing techniques since the 1960s. The techniques that she teaches are similarly unique like much of her life. Di Prima encourages experimentation amongst her students in expanding their minds. This is in an effort to relate more closely to the earth, to the past, and to themselves.


6 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Diane Di Prima, best known for her work as a Beat poet and writer, was born 6 August 1934 in Brooklyn, New York. She attended Swarthmore College (1951-1953). Di Prima has received National Endowment for the Arts grants in 1966 for Poets Press and in 1973. She writes nonfiction, autobiographies, journals, essays, poetry and plays.


Series I: Personal and Biographical Information (undated, 1934-1990)

Series II: Writings (undated, 1966-1990)

Subseries A: Diaries (1966-1972)

Subseries B: Poetry (1982-19900)

Subseries C: Prose, (1969-1990)

Series III: Correspondence (undated, 1967-1990)

Subseries A: Incoming (undated, 1967-1990)

Subseries B: Outgoing (undated, 1976-1990)

Subseries C: Other (undated, 1985-1990)

Series IV: Photographs and Audio Materials (undated)

Series V: Ephemera (undated, ca. 1980-1990)

Acquisition Information

The materials were purchased in 1990.

Related Material

Archives & Special Collections has a substantial collection of materials pertaining to literary manuscripts. For detailed information on these collections please contact the curator or ask at the Reading Room desk.

Separated Material

Materials separated from the collection and catalogued:

-----. No Trees. Dodd Call No.

-----. The Psychology of Rubber. London: Natural Rubber Company, 1964. From Peter Hartman's library. Dodd Call No.

----. Üvöltés. Vallomások A Beat-Nemzedékröl. Dodd Call No.

A.I.H.A. Newsletter. October 1989.

American Book review. v. II, #4, May-June 1980; v. 12, #3, July-August 1990.

Before Columbus Review. A Quarterly Review of Multicultural Literature. V. 1, #2/3, Fall/Winter 1989.

Il Caffè. October 1981.

City Arts Monthly. July 1980. 2 copies.

City Miner. V. 4, #2, 1979.

Colorado State Review. New Series v. V, #1, Spring 1977.

Community Writers' Project, Inc. v. 1, #2, Spring 1988.

CWG Newsletter. 1990

Dahl, David. Panic Hour. Santa Barbara, CA: Tsunami Press, 1984. Inscirbed to Di Prima by author. Dodd Call No.

Directory of American Poets. 1975 Edition. Directory of American Fiction Writers. 1976 Edition.

Folio. March 1988, April 1990.

Forum.. September/October 1988.

Fra Noi. V. XXVI, March 1987.

Grazide, RichardSomebody Get Us a Ladder Up Here. 1988 Dodd Call No.

Jarnot, Lisa. The Fall of Orpheus. A Special copy for Diane di Prima. Number 11 of a limited edition. Buffalo, NY:Lisa Jarnot, 1989. Dodd Call No.

Naropa Institue Update. Summer 1989.

Naropa Weekly. Issues 1, September 1989.

PEN Oaskland Newsletter. October 1989, March 1990.

Poet News. October 1988, June 1989, February-November 1990.

Poetry Flash. #153, December 1985; #177, December 1987.

Poetry Project. #133, 137 1989-1990.

Poetry USA. V. 4, #16, Fall 1989. 2 copies.

Poets & Writers, Inc. 1977 Supplement.

Reporter. State University of New York at Buffalo. V. 19, #22, 24 March 1988.

Scoop, The Press Club of San Francisco. V. 39, # 16, 4 September 1989.

Stone Drum. V. 1, #4, Spring 1986. Laid in note from editor.

Word Out! V. 3, #2, Winter 1990; v. 4, #1, Fall 1990.


Diane Di Prima Papers
Archives & Special Collections staff
2000 February
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Archives and Special Collections, University of Connecticut Library Repository

University of Connecticut Library
405 Babbidge Road Unit 1205
Storrs Connecticut 06269-1205 USA US