Expanded 50th anniversary edition of the City Lights classic of eco-feminist-Zen Beat poetry, featuring fifteen new poems. Simultaneously released with Diane di Prima's Spring and Autumn Annals on the one-year anniversary of her passing.
By turns a handbook of countercultural living, a manual for street protest, and a feminist broadside against the repressive state apparatus, Revolutionary Letters is a modern classic, as relevant today as it was at its inception, 50 years ago.
During the tumult of 1968, Beat poet Diane di Prima began writing her "letters," poems filled with a potent blend of utopian anarchism and Zen-tinged ecological awareness that were circulated via underground newspapers and stapled pamphlets. In 1971, Lawrence Ferlinghetti published the first collection of these poems in his iconic Pocket Poets Series, and di Prima would go on to publish four subsequent editions, expanding the collection each time. During the last years of her life, di Prima got to work on the final iteration of this lifelong project, collecting all of her previously published "letters" and adding the new work, poems written from 2007 up to the time of her death in October 2020. Published in a board-bound edition that proudly features the original edition's cover art by Lawrence Ferlinghetti.
Praise for Revolutionary Letters, 50th Anniversary Edition:
"When I was a much younger and more optimistic writer, I found myself believing that the writing of a poem, alone, could change the circumstances of an immensely flawed world, no matter what the poem was (or wasn't) asking, no matter what it was (or wasn't) doing. A part of my re-education was finding the poetry of Diane di Prima, specifically these Revolutionary Letters. Poems that are indictments, of not only the speaker, but also the reader. Poems that allow for rage and dissatisfaction to be channeled outward into something beyond the page. There is a generosity and affection in these poems that I find myself returning to, always, when I'm at my most cynical and feeling lost for any understanding of what a better world might look like. When I need to be grounded and re-centered in my understanding of community care as a living, breathing, full-time mission. And, quite simply, when I need to be reminded of how language can begin on the page, and echo far beyond."––Hanif Abdurraqib
"The bourgeois poet says poetry makes nothing happen, but what's astonishing about Diane di Prima's Revolutionary Letters is how these poems are adamantly useful. A manual of insurgent instruction, these poems tell you how to mitigate tear gas and sleep deprivation, eat a healthy diet, and overthrow the state. Less interested in displaying lyric interiority than inculcating a radical ideology, di Prima's letters are explosive and nourishing—and that most paradoxical thing, a classic text from an antisystemic tradition. Not simply a relic from a New Left past, this book is ever more urgent in our moment, as a resurgent left faces down the apocalypse. Revolutionary Letters is a time machine towards a better future."––Ken Chen
"With this new and expanded edition we are offered a window onto a master poet redefining revolution over her lifetime (through a prism). Di Prima continues to interrogate the ways in which we have been taught to live, love, eat, write, fight and take control. In her classic poem 'Rant' ('Revolutionary Letter #75') she describes this mindset as 'a multidimensional chess / which is divination / & strategy'. This time reading through I was reminded of Baraka's Wise, Why's, Y's and Ginsberg's The Fall of America. How can we make the most of this book and its wisdom? It's not enough to simply read it or even to write our own Revolutionary Letters. These poems are not realized until we are called upon to act."––Cedar Sigo
"How do 'we' keep fighting? There is no one way, but sometimes you think about lines in Diane di Prima's Revolutionary Letters. Di Prima's 'letters' feel like they were written to the all of you that always is somewhere coming together. They remind you that you are a part of something, that as sure as you have enemies who want things like jobs, you have friends who want everything. The new letters in this expanded edition continue di Prima's tradition of telling you things you need to know—like 'you have only / so much / ammunition' & how a poem can matter as 'the memory / of the poem / tak[es] root in / thousands / of minds.' & here you thought this classic couldn't get any better."––Wendy Trevino
"Revolutionary Letters is a practical guide to visionary living, a necessary handbook for all who fight for the end of prisons, borders, and environmental degradation. Its poems mourn, conspire, and command, by turns sensuous, brisk, and searing. Di Prima challenges us endlessly to be equal to our own bodies, to the body of the earth: 'sense and sex are boundless, & the call / is to be boundless with them.' I turn to this book when I am depleted by the news, because di Prima's voice is heartening, an offering of strength."––Sophia Dahlin