Skip to main content Skip to footer site map
Obituaries

Author, Poet, Playwright and Activist Diane di Prima Passes Away at 86

Article Pixel

The San Srancisco Poet Laureate Emeritus and pioneer of the Beat Generation dies of natural causes.

Author, Poet, Playwright and Activist Diane di Prima Passes Away at 86

Author, poet, playwright, activist, Buddhist, and feminist pioneer Diane di Prima made her transition on the morning of Sunday October 25, 2020. Di Prima had been fighting a long battle with a number of major health challenges, including Parkinson's Disease and Sjogren's Syndrome. She died peacefully and fearlessly at San Francisco General Hospital with her beloved husband, Sheppard Powell, by her side. Despite her Parkinson's diagnosis, di Prima had no cognitive impairment, and was actively working on several books two weeks before she passed away. She was 86.

San Francisco Poet Laureate Emeritus, di Prima is the author of more than four dozen volumes of poetry, prose and plays. Her work has been translated into 20 languages. di Prima almost single-handedly added a strong woman's voice to the Beat movement. Famously published by City Lights legend Larry Ferlinghetti, di Prima was a founder of the New York Village Beats and the San Francisco North Beach writers scene.

Author of the powerful "Revolutionary Letters," di Prima was a lifelong activist both on the page and in the streets, reading and fundraising for countless causes, festivals, benefits and protests. An incredibly versatile writer with volumes, ranging from the her early poetry of "This Kind of Bird Flies Backwards" to the prose of "Dinners and Nightmares" to the epic verse of her long form poem "Loba" to the steamy pages of "Memoirs of a Beatnik" to her hundreds of beautiful love poems, haikus, abstract plays as well as writings on spirituality, anarchy and alchemy. In addition to her writings, she edited the newspaper The Floating Bear with Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones) and was co-founder of the New York Poets Theatre and founder of the Poets Press. She has been awarded the National Poetry Association's Lifetime Service Award and the Fred Cody Award for Lifetime Achievement.

A devoted Buddhist di Prima studied under Suzuki Roshi, Trungpa Rimpoche, Lama Tarchin and others. She often attended meditation retreats, studied and translated sanskrit texts, and taught classes. She was a co-founder of the San Francisco Institute of Magical and Healing Arts (SIMHA). Di Prima is survived by a large family who adored her. She was the wife and soul mate to her loving husband, Powell, an artist and photographer. They shared a deep commitment to Tibetan Buddhism and to each other.

She was also the loving mother of five children - Jeanne, Dominique, Alexander, Tara and Rudra; the grandmother of five -- Christopher, Chani, Julie, Maceo and Ruby; and a great grandmother of three -- Maia, Niomi and Anahla. Di Prima is also survived by two brothers - that is, Frank and Richard.

A small, private prayer service and memorial will be held virtually for family and friends. After the pandemic, a public tribute to di Prima is planned in the near future.


Related Articles

More Hot Stories For You