The New Social Environment#371

A Tribute to Diane di Prima

Featuring Ammiel Alcalay, Robert Kelly, Sara Larsen, Aaron Shurin, Cedar Sigo, David Levi Strauss, and Anne Waldman with Neeli Cherkovski


1 p.m. Eastern / 10 a.m. Pacific

A poetry reading in celebration of the life and legacy of poet Diane di Prima (1934–2020), featuring Ammiel Alcalay, Robert Kelly, Sara Larsen, Aaron Shurin, Cedar Sigo, David Levi Strauss, and Anne Waldman in conversation with Neeli Cherkovski.

In this talk

Neeli Cherkovski

A photo of Neeli Cherkovski
Photo by Kyle Harvey
Neeli Cherkovski is a poet, memoirist, literary chronicler, and editor. His latest books of poetry are Hang on the Yangtze River and Elegy for My Beat Generation. He is also the biographer of Charles Bukowski and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and the recipient of an American Book Award and the Josephine Miles PEN Award.

Cedar Sigo

A photo of poet Cedar Sigo.
Courtesy Cedar Sigo
Writer and poet Cedar Sigo was raised on the Suquamish Reservation in the Pacific Northwest. He studied at The Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at the Naropa Institute. Sigo is the author of Royals (Wave Books, 2017), Language Arts (Wave Books, 2014), and Stranger in Town (City Lights, 2010). Of his work, Ron Silliman writes, “Cedar Sigo is a Frank O’Hara for the 21st century: witty, erudite, serious, with a terrific ear and eye for the minutest details, at home in the world of the arts.” He has taught at St. Mary’s College and Naropa University. He lives in Lofall, Washington.

David Levi Strauss

This is a pencil drawn portrait of Writer David Levi Strauss with a shaded black background, drawn by the Rail’s publisher Phong Bui.
Portrait drawing of David Levi Strauss by Phong H. Bui
One of the most urgent and critical art writers working today, David Levi Strauss’s work focuses on the intersection between image and text, and the third space that is created through that interaction. He is the author of Between the Eyes: Essays on Photography and Politics (Aperture 2012), Words Not Spent Today Buy Smaller Images Tomorrow: Essays on the Present and Future of Photography (Aperture 2014), and other books. His latest work is Co-Illusion: Dispatches from the End of Communication (MIT Press 2020) exposing a new ‘iconopolitics’ in which words and images lose their connection to reality.⁠ Find more about his books here →

Anne Waldman

This is a pencil drawn portrait of Poet Anne Waldman with an off-white background, drawn by the Rail’s publisher Phong Bui.
Drawing by Phong Bui
Internationally recognized and acclaimed poet Anne Waldman has been an active member of the “Outrider” experimental poetry community, a culture she has helped create and nurture for over four decades as writer, editor, teacher, performer, magpie scholar, infra-structure curator, and cultural/political activist. Her poetry is recognized in the lineage of Whitman and Ginsberg, and in the Beat, New York School, and Black Mountain trajectories of the New American Poetry, but has raised the bar as a feminist, activist, and powerful performer. She remains a highly original “open field investigator” of consciousness, committed to the possibilities of radical shifts of language and states of mind to create new modal structures and montages of attention.

Ammiel Alcalay

A Headshot of Ammiel Alcalay
Poet, translator, critic and scholar, Ammiel Alcalay is the author of from the warring factions (Beyond Baroque 2002), a book-length poem dedicated to the Bosnian town of Srebrenica, Poetry, Politics & Translation: American Isolation and the Middle East, a lecture given at Cornell (Palm Press 2003), and others. He is a regular contributor to the Village Voice and his poetry, prose, reviews, critical articles, and translations have appeared in The New York Times Book Review, The New Yorker, Time Magazine, The New Republic, Grand Street, Conjunctions, Sulfur, The Nation, and various other publications. He teaches at the CUNY Graduate Center.

Robert Kelly

A Portrait of Robert Kelly
American poet Robert Kelly was born in Brooklyn. He attended CUNY and Columbia University and since 1961 has taught at Bard College. He has authored more than 60 published volumes of fiction, poetry, and prose-poems. His 1967 debut novel The Scorpions first brought him a cult readership, and in 1980 his book Kill The Messenger won the Los Angeles Times Book Award. He has served as the poet-in-residence at many notable universities, including the California Institute of Technology (1971–72), Yale University (Calhoun College), University of Kansas, Dickinson College, and the University of Southern California. His fiction has been translated variously into Italian, German, and French. He was the 2016–2017 Poet Laureate of Dutchess County, New York.

Sara Larsen

A portrait of Sara Larsen
Poet and writer living in Oakland, CA, Sara Larsen’s latest book The Riot Grrrl Thing (Roof 2019) is a polyvocal exploration of punk and poetics. Previous books include Merry Hell (Atelos 2016) and All Revolutions Will Be Fabulous (Printing Press 2014). Larsen is the author of several chapbooks, including Our Ladies, Riot Cops En Route To Troy, The Hallucinated, and others.

Aaron Shurin

A portrait of Aaron Shurin
Poet and essayist Aaron Shurin is the author of fourteen books of poetry and prose, most recently The Blue Absolute* (Nightboat 2020). Other works include *Flowers & Sky: Two Talks* (Entre Rios Books 2017), *The Skin of Meaning: Collected Literary Essays and Talks* (University of Michigan Press 2016), and two books from City Lights: *Citizen* (2012) and *King of Shadows* (2008). A pioneer in both LGBTQ+ studies and innovative verse, Shurin was a member of the original Good Gay Poets collective in Boston, and later the first graduate of the storied Poetics Program at New College of California. A longtime educator, he’s the former director and currently Professor Emeritus for the MFA Writing Program at the University of San Francisco.