FIRST SNOW, KERHONKSON – FOR ALAN
by Diane Di Prima
This, then, is the gift the world has given me
(you have given me)
softly the snow
cupped in the hollows
lying on the surface of the pond
matching my long white candles
which stand at the window
which will burn at dusk while the snow
fills up our valley
no friend will wander down
no one arriving brown from Mexico
from the sunfields of California, bearing pot
they are scattered now, dead or silent
or blasted to madness
by the howling brightness of our once common vision
and this gift of yours-
white silence filling the contours of my life.
Diane Di Prima is one of the few well-known female Beat writers. She published her first book of poetry, This Kind of Bird Flies Backward in 1958. In the early 1960’s she collaborated with Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones) and started a monthly periodical that featured the work of themselves and many other notable Beats, including Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs. She was the founder of two publishing houses which focused on the writing of innovative and avant-garde poets: The Poets Press and Eidolon Editions, and was a lecturer at the Naropa Institute. (Annotated biography of Diane Di Prima courtesy of The Beat Page, with edits)
In August 2009 Di Prima was declared the fifth poet laureate of San Francisco. She begins her time as laureate in February 2010.
Editor’s Note: My mother is turning out to be a character in the dialogue that is this Saturday Poetry Series. This week I can credit her almost entirely. In true Jewish mother fashion, she left me a voice mail informing me not only that this week’s featured poet should be Diane Di Prima (with whom my mother took a six-month writing course at some point), but specifically told me which poem I ought to use! Well, quasi-rebel that I am, I was not inclined toward that particular poem, and, being determined to have this series be a reflection of poems which I want to share with you, I did my own research to find First Snow, Kerhonkson – for Alan – a poem which I find breathtaking. My mother aside, I think it is wholly appropriate to honor and share with you the work of Diane Di Prima, Beat poet, activist, poet laureate of San Francisco, and all-around inspiration.