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XEROX REPRINTS: RE/Search #1, 2, 3 The Shocking Tabloid Issues Excerpt: “Cool” by Diane Di Prima

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Diane Di Prima 1954Diane has been “cool” since the 1950’s. Her first book of poems, This Kind of Bird Flies Backwards, was published in 1958. Her association with her peers, the ‘Beats’ and later key figures of the 60s and 70s have resulted in a varied volume of work reflecting her individual experiences. The following is based on an interview of Diane by artist and poet Raul Santiago Sebazco (San Francisco 1980).

Somewhere along the line I made an important decision. I decided to have a baby. I didn’t want to live with any man, I didn’t want a one-to-one relationship…but my body wanted a baby–he didn’t. He was my first choice. I had 6 or 7 lovers and what happened then was I made a semi-conscious choice. The man I chose was a man I had been in love with 6 years before. He was in town only occasionally and studying at Johns Hopkins at the time. He was still an exciting person to me. I didn’t intend to get pregnant that day but I did. I didn’t tell him I was pregnant until the baby was 3 months old-then I wrote him a Christmas card that said, “By the way, you have a daughter in New York, come see us sometime.” We were all into being very cool back then, you know…

Cool was when you understated your feelings. You had a lot of feeling but you just didn’t state it…and nobody stated theirs. Thus you built up this tension of all the unstated. It wasn’t anger, but a web of interplay; things that you would say full out now, would then be stated in a small gesture-a little phrase or act would say the whole thing.

Why did Cool come about? I don’t know–I guess it was the fashion. It was maybe a reaction to the oversentimentality of our parents’ generation–the soap operas, Frank Sinatra…So the jazz was cool, we were cool, everybody was cool, and if you were cool that meant that you gave everybody more space, sort of. But come to think of it, you didn’t really…because no one knew for sure where they stood, so finally, they didn’t have any space at all. We just thought we were giving each other more space. For example, LeRoi (Amiri Baraka) and I were together for three years and I think we used the word “love” only once or twice. You see there was a depth of passion to the NOT stating it that was very intense…

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