I was sorry to learn today of the death of Diane Di Prima. Better known as a poet, Di Prima’s memorable 1961 short story ‘The Visitor’ was one of my picks for author Jonathan Gibbs’ crowd-sourced short story project A Personal Anthology last year.
‘The Visitor’ is anthologised in The Moderns: an anthology of new American writing, edited by Leroi Jones aka Amiri Baraka, and published in 1963. I can’t remember where I picked up my battered copy of the Mayflower Dell paperback of The Moderns in the early-1990s, but this is where I first came across Di Prima’s writing.
The Moderns is a great anthology, progressive for its time – featuring works by William S. Burroughs, Ed Dorn, Hubert Selby, Jr. and more. LeRoi Jones packs them in too, with two or three or more stories per writer. And no space is wasted: if one story ends mid-page, the next one starts right away. What is striking now is that Diane Di Prima is the only woman included. Her writing also stands out because it is concise and economical – in marked contrast to most of the other contributions.
‘The Visitor’ is a story about poetry, but it is also about power and who has it and how they use it and who gets to write.
If anyone is interested to read ‘The Visitor’ and two other of Di Prima’s short stories, I just checked and there are a number of second-hand copies of The Moderns currently available on Abebooks (although they are not cheap).