In 1971, City Lights Books in San Francisco published Revolutionary Letters, a book of free verse poems by the beatnik poet Diane DiPrima. This is Revolutionary Letter #34. What is notable about it is that it speaks so clearly to our present, both in describing what used to be the vision of a better/good life for all, and then, in its second section, almost as a corrective, a description of what we must do now to survive. Of course, she no more anticipated the climate crisis of today than did any of the rest of us…which is what lends a quality of uncanniness to her words.
Revolutionary Letter #34
hey man let’s make a revolution, let’s give
every man a thunderbird
color TV, a refrigerator, free
antibiotics, let’s build
apartments with a separate bedroom for each child
inflatable plastic sofas, vitamin pills
with all our daily requirements that come in the mail
free gas & electric & telephone &
no rent. why not?
hey man, let’s make a revolution, let’s
turn off the power, turn on the
stars at night, put metal
back in the earth, or at least not take it out
anymore, make lots of guitars and flutes, teach the chicks
how to heal with herbs, let’s learn
to live with each other in a smaller space, and build
hogans, and domes and teepees all over the place
BLOW UP THE PETROLEUM LINES, make the cars
into flower pots or sculptures or live
in the bigger ones, why not?