Interview: Diane di Prima

words by Jackson Ellis
| Thursday, July 29th, 2010

Diane di PrimaIn March of 2007, I pulled a copy of Diane di Prima’s prose and poetry collection Dinners and Nightmares off my bookshelf. At the time, I was in the midst of compiling content for Verbicide magazine issue #20. I decided on a whim to email the book’s publishers (Last Gasp) in hopes to acquire rights to reprint di Prima’s flash fiction parable, “Untitled.” While it was entirely possible that my inquiry would be rebuked — or simply ignored — I received a prompt response from the Bay Area publisher: they were passing my message on to the author. Shortly thereafter, I received a polite personal response from di Prima. Yes, we could reprint the story in Verbicide, and would I be interested in some new short poems as well?

Di Prima remains as fervently involved in the arts and education as ever. From the onset of our correspondence, it was obvious that she is not about to be regarded merely as a literary figurehead, but as an ongoing contributor to the arts — a presence whose voice continues to positively impact those who listen, as it has for the last half-century.

Though perhaps best known to the casual reader for her involvement in the Beat movement of the ‘50s and ‘60s, poet Diane Di Prima has, in fact, authored more than 40 books of poetry and prose and is the embodiment of a modern day Renaissance woman. A native of Brooklyn, di Prima spent a number of years in Manhattan, where she founded Poets Press, co-founded the New York Poets Theatre, and co-edited The Floating Bear with LeRoi Jones. She is among the founders of the poetry school at Naropa University (with Allen Ginsberg and Anne Waldman), and since moving to San Francisco four decades ago has been a teacher and mentor to scores of aspiring poets, writers, and artists. Di Prima is also a playwright, a painter, a social activist, a mother, and a grandmother.

Adding to that list is di Prima’s recent appointment as Poet Laureate of San Francisco. Following in the footsteps of Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Janice Mirikitani, Devorah Major, and Jack Hirschman, she was named the fifth laureate of San Francisco in May of 2009, and was inaugurated in February of 2010. “As poets, and artists in general,” she states, “it’s our job to create a community, to show others how to do it, to support each other, to get the work out — and also to keep some sense of possibility open, to keep some sense of celebration.” In addition, over the course of the two-year appointment, di Prima aspires to work (through the neighborhood libraries) with kids after school, spreading her love of poetry and the arts.

It took quite a bit of wrangling to arrange a time and date that would work for the both of us to do this interview via phone, but in the time leading up to our two-plus hour talk I was fortunate to trade a decent amount of emails with Diane. Like any author, the words in her many books speak for themselves. But in our personal exchanges, I was pleased to learn that there is nothing at all put on in di Prima’s work – the passion, intellect, and energy that comes across in the writing exists because it is a true reflection of the author. It was a pleasure to speak with di Prima; what follows is a lengthy excerpt of our conversation on February 23, 2010.

As a youngster, you broke away from formal education early in your collegiate career. I found it interesting when I read Recollections of My Life as a Woman that, even though I went to college 40 or so years after you, I identified with many of your reservations of the value of the college experience, and your descriptions of “the pretentious, awkward intellectual life, clipped speeches, stiff bodies, unimaginative clothes, poor food, frequent alcohol, and deadly mores,” as well as the “cold intellect of campus.” Now, however, it seems that you spend much of your time teaching writing via workshops and in collegiate settings. With your past — that is, having experiences in the classroom that fell so short of your expectations — how do you approach teaching?
Well, for one thing, I teach very little in a classroom. I did a little more a few years ago, but I never was really hired by any college to do a whole lot — except for New College of California, and that was a completely off-the-wall kind of a program, in that it was run by me, Robert Duncan, David Meltzer, and Duncan McNaughton. It was a self-defined program in poetics, and not in creative writing. Robert was teaching things like “The King, The Sage, and The Fool in Shakespeare.” I was teaching “The Hidden Religions in the Literature of Europe”; it was a full-year course, and it was [about] all the heresies and all the remnants of prehistory that has stayed with us right through to now in our belief systems, and so on. [New College] was a place where you could define your courses: make them up and teach them. But that was awful enough because we still had faculty meetings, and of the five of us, I was the only woman — it still had its drawbacks, and after that first class I took my class out of that building and taught in my studio. It was making me sick being in the building! So that was it, everybody had to come to me for their classes.

So that was the only [collegiate setting] I ever worked for any period of time. Michael McClure got me a job for a couple of years; I was one of those “visiting faculty” members — not a very high-paying one either — at California College of Arts and Crafts. But in terms of “teaching within the system” it’s been the minority of the amount of teaching I’ve done.

What about Naropa University?
At Naropa, I was one of the people that started [the poetry program at The Jack Kerouac School] together with Anne Waldman and Allen Ginsberg, the three of us it was for quite a while; but still, I would only come in the summers — the terms were too oppressive. So almost all the teaching I do right now I do in a loft in The Mission! People commit for nine months, and they come every month — and if they can’t get there they send their money in for that month anyway, and if I can manage to make a recording then they get a recording of that class, and I’m available to answer questions for them. So that’s my “base” class. I took three years off from that recently because I sold some archives.

But I haven’t changed my opinions at all about academe. In fact, I think it’s gotten a lot worse than it used to be, and all these MFA programs are just like mills for making money for the university; they’re horrible — they get people because people think that they’re going to get out with an MFA and be able to work, or get to be famous writers. The kids pay a lot — or at least, the grown-ups, most of them are adults who go to these things, these low-residency things — they pay a lot of money for them, and they don’t pay the teachers who lead them very much.

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There’s a bit of text by Nelson Algren — who was very critical of MFA programs such as University of Iowa — where he basically says that people, instead of going out and living and learning and gaining character, were instead being insulated from the world.
Most of the students of mine who’ve done one of those write much worse when they get out of it — much worse. They’ve gotten very stiff; they think they’re supposed to hide what they have to say, and not be forthright in any way, and, you know…all this BS that’s trendy right now.

But it’s like anything, you have to be open to the good ideas you’re going to find, and you have to aggressively shut out the bad.
But most people don’t. They don’t shut it out, and they wind up writing worse than when they went in. So I teach, but I make up my own rules; sometimes I teach at home, sometimes I teach in a loft.

Previously, you mentioned to me that aside from your work with students who are of college age and older, you’d be working with schoolchildren at the libraries [as part of your poet laureate duties]. As a poet, a mother, and a grandmother, what are your best suggestions for fostering a love of the written word (and art in general) in young children?
I think the most important thing is that it doesn’t matter if it’s the written word or a drawn picture, you have to just give them a lot of space. Whatever they discover, and whatever they’re doing, and whatever they’re making is wonderful. Don’t be prejudiced toward the word as opposed to the picture — that’s important, because some people learn to read quite late and they’re getting all kinds of blather for that — getting oppressed [because of] that! Every single one of them is different — kids, that is — I mean, I had five and not any of them were alike. You have to be alert to the signs of their own creativity and where they want to take it, and foster that.

I love to read to them. I made sure there were plenty of books around that they’d be interested in, and I’d read to them even when they were older, like 12 or so. From the five-year-old to the 12-year-old, we’d all pile into one bed and I’d read! Especially in the rainy winters up here on the coast; I lived on the north coast for a while.

My mom did the same for me; some of my best memories are of my brother and me curling up on the couch with her while she’d read books like Tarzan and The Hobbit. She’d do voices for all the characters, and it really fed our imagination. I remember even as a kid, she’d read a book like Charlotte’s Web and then I’d see the 1970s animated movie version and I’d think, Those aren’t the right voices! The book was much better than the movie!
We had no television until they were all pretty much out of the house, except for my youngest. Until 1989, I never lived with a television. If we were at a friend’s house and they were watching it, that was fine — I mean, I wasn’t going to say, “Never watch TV!” But we didn’t have one. They were writing plays; they were making up music; they were having very noisy, very bad bands. (laughter) You know, all the things that people naturally would do if you left them to their own devices instead of putting them in front of a screen.

More on the topic of childhood — I noted in Recollections that you discuss your reaction to the bomb dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. It was your 11th birthday, and it seems that as a child — living in Brooklyn and surrounded by so many people of so many different walks of life — that you were immediately confronted by the ugliest side of humanity, with all the anger and reactionism that came pouring out. It is interesting to note that when you read the poetry in Gary Snyder’s Danger on Peaks that he — at the age of 15 and in a completely different realm in Oregon than you in New York — was affected just as deeply. Even though you were both young at the time, do you believe that this event, perhaps, was the end of innocence of your generation?
I don’t think there was any innocence in my world from the time I was four — the war was the end of innocence. But it was very much a defining thing [as to] how we thought.

Do you think it was one of the catalysts behind the movements and subcultures that you grew into and became part of?
I think to a large extent it was; that was one part of it. The other part of it, for me, was the repression of McCarthyism. All of that put together. On the other side of that picture, though, I was growing up in Brooklyn, but by the time I was in high school I was spending a lot of time in Manhattan. As soldiers were repatriated I was meeting people from all over the country. So I was getting a sense of a lot more kinds of humans — Americans, anyway — than I wouldn’t have gotten in a time where there hadn’t been a war. What your normal New Yorker gets is just New York and New York-type people, but [there were] these kids from the Midwest, from the South, and from all over the country with all their points of view coming through.

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In the time between 1945 and, say, the beginning of the real McCarthy crackdown — which, McCarthy’s real crackdown had started by the late ‘40s, but it didn’t really come down on us as hard until we became aware of the Rosenberg [executions in 1953] — in that little period of time, there was a lot of openness. A lot of black people were coming down from Harlem with the remnants of their renaissance, which had been plunked out by the Depression, and there was a lot of energy and a lot of different cultures you were exposed to because of the war that you wouldn’t have seen or heard of otherwise.

So there were two things happening there, [the war and the Red Scare]. There was repression and fear, and when I was first on my own, people were talking seriously about building cities under lead domes with artificial lights to protect them from their own nation — stuff that we now see in science fiction.

And it wasn’t just a “Red” Scare. Wilhelm Reich died in prison, not for being a communist — he was just a heretic, that’s all. People were heretics and they got killed.

And they got blamed–
They didn’t get blamed, they got killed. Getting blamed you can deal with; getting killed is final. Women I knew would get killed, like I say in Recollections, because they were promiscuous. They’d be sent somewhere and get shock treatment. There were a lot of things defining our generation, and the bomb was one of them — but that mentality that I’m trying to point to here is what made the bomb. It’s the same mentality that kills somebody with shock treatment — up in [Boston], 40 shock treatments to John Wieners’ head the first time his parents committed him.

The mentality was even bigger than the bomb, if you can imagine that. Without that mentality, nobody would’ve dreamed up making the bomb.

Throughout your life you’ve been an advocate of peace and equality. I found it very interesting in Recollections to note all of your observances of the struggles, both politically and internally (and emotionally), of those who might be considered “minorities” due to race, sex, or sexual orientation — there was even a part that surprised me in Recollections where you mentioned a defrocked priest by the name of Charles Malley, who performed same-sex marriages in Manhattan in the 1950s. Even though the United States, as a whole, has — hopefully — evolved in the duration of your lifespan, how do you feel when you consider today’s political and social climate?
I don’t think we’ve evolved as much as we think we have, sadly. I don’t think women have gotten anywhere near as much freedom as they think they have. I mean, if you have a couple and they’re both artists and they have a child, you’ll still find that it’s the woman who figures out how to work and how to get some money, and the guy goes right on doing his art — but she maybe doesn’t have the time to do hers anymore. I think that kind of thing still happens. I think that there’s still an awful, obvious prejudice against homosexuality, and lord knows what the center of the country thinks about transgender [issues] — I haven’t asked them in a while! (laughter) I’d thought by this time we wouldn’t have any prejudice against people who were addicts; that it would just be “go to the doc, and get your prescription.” I thought that we’d see the value of psychedelics, and [that] many, many other wonderful things would be going on.

I don’t think we’ve made so much progress. In a way, the surveillance level — the ability to survey us all — makes the possibility of suppression and repression huge! Huge compared to what they could have done — and did do — in the ‘50s, what I’ve written about, with friends getting chased by the FBI, and so on. I think it’s way worse.

These problems are beneath the surface, rather than as “in your face” as they might’ve been — but they still exist.
I think that’s true. I mean, people don’t like to think of themselves as “backward”; in those days they didn’t care.

You live in San Francisco, easily the most progressive city in America, and I live in Vermont, one of the two or three most liberal states in the country. Do you think people who live in such places might have to work harder to avoid having a skewed vision of social progress, or do you think the things we’re speaking of are more intensified by such a vantage point?
All you have to do is look, and you don’t have to work very hard. All you have to do is read the paper — you still have papers where you live, don’t you? (laughter) All you have to do is look, and I don’t think we have to look harder than anybody else to see how bad it is, because people are blatant about it — they’re proud of it! It’s right there in our face. It’s a different type of [flagrance] than “Women should stay at home and cook,” but it’s the same thing. It’s in all fields, everywhere — academe, for one, is notoriously backward.

During the eight years of Bush you could see how bad it was, but clearly, one man being elected doesn’t have the chance of a snowball in hell. He and his family are moving into the house of the enemy. What do you do in that situation?

Do your best in the at least four years you’re allotted — but so too [will political opportunists] to make him the “fall guy.”
Right, he’ll be the fall guy, and I think he knew that ahead of time and didn’t care. Also, there are certain things you’re going to have to cut back on because you don’t want to come out of there missing a family member. I think the so-called “secret government” is stronger than it has ever been; it was made so under Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney and those nice guys who I still think should be brought to justice. Many [people do]; we’ve been signing petitions all over the web! (laughter)

It’s going to be interesting to see what the power of the internet and/or the petitions really is.
Well, they’ve managed to ignore [the demand for] single payer, and I think hundreds of thousands of people have signed for that! The one thing we have different today — and they’re fighting like crazy to figure out how to control it, but it got too big before they managed to get to it — is the web. It [allows] communication between people all over the place. [We’re] able to see what’s happening in Iran, or in Haiti, and so on, rather than just relying on word.

In the ‘60s we made our own syndicated news service called “Liberation News Service.” [We got] a room with a phone under a made-up name — rented under an anonymous name too, the room — and people would man it around the clock to get the news from our friends who were on the road, who were travelling anywhere in the world, who could call us and say, “They just raided the American Indian Headquarters in Vancouver.” Or such and such has just happened in Iran, or in Nepal, or wherever. News was person-to-person at that point. Now we’ve got the web, and even if we can’t trust a lot of it, with a good “truth filter” we still can filter out a lot of good information, and stay in touch with more people and more places. Of course, it gives “them” an easy way to infiltrate — you don’t have to look for “the man,” he’s right there everywhere! (laughter)

And for all the different, reliable news sources that [are available], there’s so much bad information masked as good that it can be misleading, and it can bring a lot of zealots together. While you’ve got the The Guardian at your fingertips, anytime you want, you’ve also got Drudge and Breitbart.
I know. My junk filter everyday has to take away messages from a group called “Patriot” who would like me to go a teabag thing somewhere. (laughter)

Exactly, there are so many of those things — websites that try to suck the reader in with talk of “patriotism,” and “duty,” and just doing the right thing; they get you so jacked up with a sense of purpose that you can have a hard time deciphering the crux of their position.
I don’t have a hard time. I was taught very, very early to filter any information in any newspaper and read it in terms of, “Okay, most of this is propaganda. Is there any truth here?” People always ask me, “How did you manage to stay so independent?” and so on and so forth. But I never thought of that [point] until right now — it’s possibly one of the biggest things I was taught early on: to look for what they were trying to make me do. My father’s paranoid belief was that they had mandated universal education because they could control everybody by reading if everybody read! And if he was alive now, he’d say now that they’ve got television, no wonder they’re not putting any money into teaching people how to read. I’m not saying he wasn’t, in a lot of ways, a crazy person — he was. (laughter) But in a lot of ways… I was handed Machiavelli’s The Prince when I was seven and I was told, “Unless you read this, you’ll never understand history.”

I understand what you mean about filtering [information] — but there are a lot of people who can’t, and those are the people who are the enablers of those in power who would suppress gay marriage, universal health care, things like this. The healthcare issue is the most mind-boggling of all.
It is, isn’t it? People are saying, “Yes, yes, kill us. Please refuse us medicine; please refuse us what we need. We’ll just sit around and be scared.” (laughter)

That’s another thing to consider when you’re teaching your kids and getting them to learn how to read. One of the things I taught at New College — where I had people that I could really teach, and teach them on my terms in my way — was when you start a book you have to first [consider] “what is this person’s point of view; what is he trying to convince me of?” Then you can read between the lines, and [figure] out what’s information, and what’s him trying to convince me of something. That’s part of what you would teach your kids with anything besides Narnia or Charlotte’s Web; if you start reading a little history together or anything else.

What I remember my father did was he would have us read a part of a Shakespeare play, like Mark Antony’s famous speech, and say, “Look at how he’s manipulating the crowd! Look at how he’s getting them to weep for Caesar!” Now, Caesar never did anything for these people. He’s saying, “When the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept.” Is it any different now, I ask you? No, they still say that. “Oh, my heart bleeds for the Haitians.” Yeah, now why don’t we cut it out and go feed them?

So you’re talking about lip-service–
I’m talking about teaching people to read between the lines of what’s being told to them. I think everybody should learn that in first grade — maybe second grade. In first grade you’re a little too innocent, but by second grade you’re not. When you’re seven years old you’re ready to look with some suspicion at the grown-ups. (laughter)

You and I have both dedicated a lot of our lives to independent publishing. I’ve been running Scissor Press and Verbicide and doing other various media projects since around the age of 19; you’ve had decades of publishing experience co-publishing The Floating Bear, running Poets Press, and Eidolon Editions. I loved to read in your autobiography that as a child you would make newsletters for fun, because it reminded me of how I used to write little baseball magazines in my bedroom when I was a kid.
Right! They made this thing [a hectograph] where you could pull off about 10 copies using gelatin; I think it was the forerunner of the Ditto machine. You just wrote with certain kinds of pens, put it on this gelatin tray, and then you could put pieces of paper down and offprint from it. It was great!

I used my dad’s Xerox machine.
See, we had no Xerox machine! Xerox [machines] came in the mid-‘60s. That’s very interesting to remember — before that we were typing 10 carbons when we wanted to get a lot of copies of something. (laughter) That’s kind of mind-boggling to me!

That’s a lot of work for what would now seem like a very minimal end product! So at what age did you seriously consider undertaking publishing as a lifelong endeavor?
I don’t know that I’ve ever [not been] involved in either making a magazine or [publishing]. When I was in high school we had our school magazine, and I was the editor of it for most of the years I was in high school. I never really thought of it as a primary thing I was doing; the primary thing I was doing was writing. But I always wanted to get my hands on a press. I was able to get a hold of a mimeograph machine somewhere; that was a big way to get copies out.

You’ve seen a lot of extreme changes in how people produce and receive the written word, and I’d first like to ask you to compare and contrast traditional mimeograph publishing vs. computer desktop publishing. What are the benefits and drawbacks of each, as compared to one another?
Well, I think that people are relying a little too much right now on the idea that the cyber-network is going to be here forever. When they don’t make a hardcopy of something, they really think that nobody’s ever going to pull the plug and that there could ever be a day when the country is in chaos — a million little nations [with] no electric grid. If there’s no electric grid, how can there be a cyber-grid? I think that’s a big drawback.

We’ve talked about some of the big advantages of [the present], that you can reach so many people. But I’ve never written a blog or done any of those things because I don’t think that I could reach people more than superficially. When I first read something, maybe I don’t even like it, but I throw it back on the shelf. And six months or six years later I go, “Whoa. What was I thinking?” You don’t have that chance [with online publications] unless you print things out, and since I can’t read much on the screen I always print out everything.

It’s funny that you mention reaching people only on a superficial level — when you consider where independent publishing is going these days and how everyone is shifting to the web, I really felt that with Verbicide we were one of the last holdouts [printing our magazine] because I couldn’t stand that thought of being online-only. We did three to four issues a year, printing between 5,000 and 25,000 copies per issue–
That’s a lot of work.

It was a lot of work, but even if we moved only half of those copies, I guarantee you that the people who picked them up…they put them in their backpacks, they read them on train rides, they read them on buses, they read them on subways or while they were out hiking, in their bedrooms at night with a reading lamp on–
I’m an example! How long after I was mailed a bunch of Verbicide [copies] did I write you back about loving a guy’s story? It was in a pile of stuff I was going to read, and then one day, whoa — you don’t get that chance that much. I mean, you can go back to the archives, but how many people do that?

We’ve talked a lot about being on the receiving end of a published product — having a book or an album as a consumer or end-user, if you will. As a publisher, now, do you think that mimeograph publishing intensifies the “intimacy” you feel with the work you are publishing, since it is so much more labor intensive? I’m specifically referring to the fact that traditional publishing required you to have office space in Manhattan to run Poets Press back in the ‘60s, where as desktop publishing really only requires you to have space for a desk and a computer — like me, in my basement.
Yeah, but do you actually make the product there?

No, we put it together, but then we ship it off [for production].
I had the press, the copy camera…I had the stuff to make the copy that went into the camera to get photographed and made into a negative. Then the metal plate [was made] and the metal plate then went onto the offset press. I don’t think I published a book by just typing it and running off copies, say, either on a computer or on a copying machine. I have published a couple pamphlets where I just typed them and brought them to somebody else to print, but then I don’t feel like I’m involved in that at all. So yes, I like the craftsman [aspect] of it; I like the hands-on feeling of it. I like standing around and watching a press spit out a thousand copies of an image by an artist friend.

I can imagine that’s nice — I was never actually involved in the printing of Verbicide [other than the first two photocopied issues]. During the last year or two of publishing it in a physical form, I’d supply a mailing list and the printer would ship it out, and it would save a lot of time and a ton of money. But for a long time, I was mailing out physical copies, and I would have stacks of envelopes — and I remember what a satisfying thing that was, dumping those in the mail.
How many people did you mail to?

Most copies were going off to our distributors. But I think my [direct] mailing list was at its peak around 1,200 people.
That’s how big The Floating Bear got at its highpoint, 1,200 people. We started with 117 names out of my address book and LeRoi Jones’ address book — but those 117 names caused a lot of change in the world. And I’m not sure that numbers of people reached are as important as how you reach them.

What you’re doing is trying to change the world. You have to have the people that it’s getting to be people who are then going to then get up and do something about it — even if what they do about it is write a story because [they’ve been] inspired so much — which they might then send to you, or you might never hear about.

But I [wonder about] the many, many people who are their computer for hours surfing the web, whether they are people who also have any inclination to get up and do anything. I don’t know how many do or not; I’m not criticizing those folks, but I just don’t know. It seems to me the more creative ideas could’ve evolved by this time — about Haiti, about how to get the goods where they had to go — if everybody who was reading about it got up and did something. That’s just a current example — I think we could’ve figured a lot more out about New Orleans much faster than we did. One place where [the internet] worked creatively and well was in Seattle at that first WTO thing, but since…they figured out how we did that, and we haven’t figured out how to go around what they figured out! (laughter) Yet! But we will figure that out.

I think there are some — but not that many — people who, when they read something or see something, seriously conceive of themselves as creators or makers or changers of the world. It can be any of those — you might just stay home and play your flute, but that’s making something, and all of that goes into the changing of a world. But just going, “Oh wow, look at this,” doesn’t do anything.

And as a publisher, or writer, or artist — any kind of creator you want to consider yourself — if you’re putting something out there, you can only hope for the best. You can’t force anything on people; you just have to hope you inspire them.
No, you can’t force them. I guess what I’m saying is that there has to be a place for the seed to drop — that sounds almost Biblical — where you’re dropping the words [that will] result in something happening. Of course, we don’t know that, and we can’t measure it.

Two-hundred people is what I’m estimating were in all the cities that Ginsy reached in ’56 — Allen Ginsberg, when he first did Howl. But in each city he put all those people together with each other. I think 200 of us were at first in communication, but a lot of change happened; I’m not saying any one of us did it, but a lot of change happened in people’s heads, really, it had to happen. But right now, a lot of change has to happen again.

How many issue of [Verbicide] have you put online? New ones I mean, not the archive.

Well, the way we go about it with the website is that we update it five days a week, Monday through Friday. We put something new up every day.
Ah, so it doesn’t just come out once in a while as a “chunk.”

It’s a little bit every day, and whereas those “chunks” [putting out a quarterly magazine] used to require a lot more intensive work leading up to the release date, we always had a month or so of downtime between them. Now there’s not a ton to do, but it’s every single day, and we get a lot more emails to respond to.
I get about a hundred a day, and I don’t even have much of [an online] presence! Somebody else invented a Myspace page for me; a woman in Australia who I don’t know made it up. She’s a painter, and she felt like I needed a presence. She keeps offering to turn it over to me, and tell me what to do, but I don’t want to be bothered with it. I think I’m going to get off all social networking sites at the end of my laureateship. Off all of them.

I saw you had a Facebook profile, but it doesn’t really look like something you were interested in maintaining.
Once in a while I’ll put a political thing up on it if it means one click after I’ve signed a petition…otherwise, I don’t bother with it. People who I know and already have an email address for want to be my Facebook friend – they can be my friend, but I’m going to write them person-to-person, not through Facebook. I’m too paranoid for that! Am I writing to you, or do you want 90,000 people to see what I have to say? It’s all exhibitionist; it’s ridiculous. (laughter)

It’s basically more for product promotion and attention-seeking than real communication. I identify that, but [since I have] a website, I sort of have to embrace the fact that it’s a good place to promote and reach new people.

Facebook, or Myspace, or whatever the flavor-of-the-month social networking is. I’ve seen it go from Friendster, to Orkut, to Myspace, to Facebook and Twitter — there’s going to be something new after that, it’s not the end-all be-all. Within just a couple years there has been a sea-change of social networking, and you have to keep up with it.
Well, I think that a lot of people are keeping up with it who don’t particularly like us — and I’d just as soon have them work a little harder to find out what I’m up to! (laughter)

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