Diane di Prima was found by accident both artistically and literally when I started mooning over Jack:
Ginsberg grew on me due to the sheer epic, humorous, and heartening quality of Howl. But back to the beginning, to Jack:
It wasn’t his rugged good looks that only drew me in, it was the vibe he had that I also felt when I walked down the alleyways of North Beach, passing the Italian cafes and old men smoking outside, burlesque houses, with their live bands and comedians, the sex shows, the drag queens on their way to Finocchio’sheading up to the higher, more tiny side of Grant St. and dipping into what was left of the Beat generation tucked in a corner of 1980’s San Francisco. They were older, but they still painted, wrote, sat in Trieste and the Savoy, talking politics and all things literary, moth-eaten 60’s and 70’s who smelled of linseed oil and brandy if they were lucky, sat with us tiny children, all of 15, 16, 17 years old, playing pool all day and night for the price of a coffee. They wanted to know what we thought about, what we were reading, what did we want to know about their past, they would smoke joints on the top of the hill and tell us. I felt this same vibe when I looked at Jack, when I first read his books, skimming them all here and there in the stacks of City Lights. He was these people but when they were young and hot. I had yet to embrace or really know the tragedies that lay beneath the surface, I wanted to know them all and accepted him and all of them no matter how rough the ride was getting. I went through and read each book finally, deciding that Good Blonde and others was a favorite due to the picture-perfect moment he painted for me of his night in the New York cafeteria and the freedom he felt jumping into the convertible with the blonde.
Moving on to Burroughs, how did these two even connect, Jack and Bill, (I would find out that significance later) after reading the homoerotic opium dreamscape that was Burroughs…
The dark horses, deep in drug addled, hustler mode, the tails that Allen Ginsberg rode in on with his young, wide-open mind…
Joan Vollmer & Herbert Huncke, NYC 1940’s,
Huncke growing Marijuana on Burroughs’ farm in Texas, 1947
Would beat life ever have been tangy, as acrid, as lengthy of a sillage without him, he turned them on and kept the crazy train moving….could “Howl” ever have been written without Huncke?
Neal Cassady, the sun that they all revolved around for some time……..the most compelling, rugged, harlot of a muse. Hard sweating crushes write the best words…
Poems of Corso, religiously loving his bittersweet poem about hair and the loss of it…in the bigger and sadder collection about death.
I needed more and wanted to see pictures, pouring over any archival stories loving the vivid life of them all, squatting in Paris and using the phone book for toilet paper, drinking wine and fucking around, they were so punk, more punk than the kids in my high school, more interesting than the punks in the bands, they were deep, their words rang like fine instruments, paintings, sculptures and sex.
This was me, I was a traveler, a gypsy, sometimes intentionally , sometimes not, sometimes verging on criminality, but always a good person, an artist living eventually in the East Village, I never knew if I followed them or if I just was akin to their instincts, it felt right and they were always there to comfort me, to tell a story that made my madness make sense, and kept me focused on my passions: art, dance, literature, film, travel, altered states and spiritual hunger.
Diane came later, when had to know even more and read a long biography of Jack. Their bungled rendezvous felt so visceral and honest. She was always trying to make her voice known to me, and when I started to read only her, it was a voice that was shaped by her experience of looking at these men from a certain viewpoint, yes she had an interlude with Jack, wine-drunk, late night things happened, but most of the women in their world were set apart, only to resurface when needed, the mothers of their children, the other woman, the convenient crash pad. Diane was a wanderer who mingled less attached and yet with a force of a modern dancer who also used her words as an instrument. I could also count on that and my body which I threw into space daily, all attempts at fine-tuned machinery while maintaining our kingdom on the fringes of society. Diane got that. She was angular, she was what I felt, and not what I was being conditioned to think I should be.
I admired and envied her, not really her talent, though she is a fine voice but that she lived in a world for most of her life, not half, like me, where you had to make the effort on paper with pens and typing with a ribbon, sending letter after letter tinged with oils and coffee and tears, to get to the person that would bring it a new life or answer your questions. She had to be out and walking, feeling the forces around her, this slipped from my existence more and more when the digital age came, but strangely it did not hinder her coming to me. Diane was nearby. I kept touching paper, kept using pens, and she arrived, openly welcomed I suddenly was, why I don’t know, but I felt excitement and realized that despite her stories, her work, she was unknown, her true feelings, what she does with her self. I needed to know more, I would try my best.
**** to be continued