The Poetry Deal is the first new full-length collection in decades from the feminist Beat poet Diane di Prima. Written before and during her tenure as San Francisco’s poet laureate, di Prima’s latest confronts the world around her—and the city she adores—with a steady gaze, at once stern and loving. These poems encourage us to “[u]nplug one day a / week: stay home, tell stories, make love,” and caution against our increasing reliance on social media: “she doesn’t say ‘stay in touch’ and mean Facebook or LinkedIn / stay in touch means you touch each other, lovers or not / you crash on his floor, or bring her your old sofa…” In many ways, this book, framed by two prose pieces, is a love song to San Francisco—and a plea for the city to live up to its past and potential. “...I let this stardust, these cataracts, the dust or bus-exhaust or whatever it is...convince me that I live in the place I dreamed of when I came here,” di Prima writes. “City Lights 1961” commemorates her first visit to the bookstore, while other poems mourn writers, artists, and other beloved friends (there’s even one about visiting Ezra Pound at “St. Liz.”). Above all else, di Prima is a generous poet: “I’d like my daily bread / however you arrange it,” she asks of the muse in the title poem, “and I’d also like / to be bread, or sustenance, for some others / even after / I’ve left.
A song they can walk a trail with.”
This book review originally appeared in American Poets, Fall-Winter 2014.