One night in the 1950s Diane di Prima was at a party at Allen Ginsberg's place in New York City. It was usual poet stuff — talking, reading, smoking, drinking — until 11:30 p.m. came around and di Prima said she was going home to relieve her babysitter. Jack Kerouac, also a guest, shouted, "Di Prima, unless you forget about your babysitter, you're never going to be a writer."
Diane di Prima went home anyway — and became one of the prominent voices of the Beat Generation. She wrote more than 40 books of poetry and memoir that dealt with politics, community, love, and sex, and in 2009 she was named Poet Laureate of San Francisco. Di Prima died Sunday morning at the age of 86 at a hospital in San Francisco, her brother Frank DiPrima confirmed.
In 2017, the Washington Post asked her if Kerouac's comments were indicative of the sexism in the Beat scene.
"Jack wanted me to hang out because everyone was gay and I was straight," she said. "He was probably hoping to get laid later."
Diane di Prima was born in Brooklyn in 1934. She committed herself to poetry as a teenager, and by the 1960s she was working on her own poetry while editing the newsletter The Floating Bear with poet Amiri Baraka (with whom di Prima had a child, Dominique di Prima). According to an archive of di Prima's papers at the University of Connecticut, this work got her arrested by the FBI for alleged obscenity (the case was eventually thrown out).