I first read Diane DiPrima’s work when I was in high school. She was one of the few female voices in the beat poetry scene. For a while I was fascinated with the couple of poems I could get my hands on including “Song for Baby O” included in this collection. Now that I’ve finally figured out the magic of the lending library I got my hands on “Pieces of a Song.” I expected a collection that followed the clarity and emotional sensitivity I had seen before, but was sorely disappointed.
“Pieces of a Song” contains over 200 pages worth of hit or miss poems. Some poems evoke beautiful and powerful images and complex emotions. Others get too caught up in hippie shtick to say much of anything. Furthering my annoyance was DiPrima’s constant contraction of words like your to yr would to wd and could to cd.
Below I have included selections from two poems to illustrate my point:
trophies of pain I’ve gathered. whose sorrow
do I shore up, in trifles? the weavings,
paintings, jewels, plants, I bought
with my heart’s hope. rocks from the road
to Hell, broken pieces of statuary, ropes,
bricks, from the city of Dis.
this morning we walked to breakfast
birds were singing
“HOLY HOLY HOLY” she whispered
“that’s what they’re saying
WHOLE WHEAT WHOLE WHEAT
well, anyway whole wheat
is holy too”
This kind of up-and-down writing left me feeling overall unsatisfied. While there are definitely some stellar poems to come out of this book, one would have to be a hardcore beat poetry fan to enjoy all of it.