Statement on the occasion of Mission Latina/o poets honoring Diane di Prima's inauguration as Poet Laureate of San Francisco, 2/20/10
Statement on the occasion of Mission Latina/o poets honoring Diane diPrima's inauguration as Poet Laureate of San Francisco, 2/20/10
I suspect I was invited to participate for my connection to The Mission, poetry, and the early days of MCC, and as soon as I was asked I said to myself: "Oh, you have NO idea!" I spoke of staring into the hideous op-art carpet and sinking into the earth only to find myself when Diane spoke back in '69? '70? at San Jose State. I'm pretty sure I was 16 years old and that she read with Victor Hernández Cruz & Elías Hruska-Cortez. As amazing as they were, they were just the set-up for the grand slam of Diane for me that night. I had come to hear her, having already been familiar with her poetry and other revolutionary letters. I heard her whenever I could. I know it was her voice I heard and spoke with in my poetry for years, maybe to this day--minus the NY accent. She was reading from the beginning of Loba, her ongoing opus. It was healing as well as liberating to be transformed by a woman and her totem. I shadowed her for decades afterward when I'd come to The Mission to see my father. It led me to strange poetry movie nights and other happenings in cavernous dreamscape spaces in the early '70s. It kept me in the library and bookstores just keeping up with her work. It brought me back to Third World poetry and the women's collective. It brought me to the Lower East Side. And, about 15 years later it brought me into her livingroom with her friends and family: poets (white men) I had long admired and read in the "poetry world" who would on any other place on earth not have paid any attention to me at all. She made them listen. And, finally, it led me to Boulder where I was a tenured Associate Professor of English for almost 20 years where I had the pleasure of her company and voice at the nearby Naropa Institute, the creative writing program she had a hand in founding. I have always heard her voice. I am proud, as a second generation Native San Franciscan, to know that my city has the good sense and impeccable taste to name her, Diane diPrima, my Poet Laureate.
Lorna Dee Cervantes
3181 Mission St., PMB 16
San Francisco, CA 94110