Diane di Prima

The Window by Diane di Prima

‘The Window,’ an interesting poem is written by the Beat poet Diane di Prima, compares poetry to a “window” to a writer’s soul. It showcases how poetry captures the very essence of the poet and her thoughts.

Diane di Prima’s ‘The Window’ is a metaphorical poem about the art of poetry. This poem explores the poet’s attachment to her art and how it helps her give impetus to her thoughts. Di Prima was a prominent figure of the Beat movement of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Her poetry is known for its use of the stream-of-consciousness technique with a central focus on women’s issues, politics, and spirituality. Her poems stand to give a voice to women everywhere.

The Window by Diane di Prima


‘The Window’ by Diane di Prima is a very subjective and ambiguous poem as it can be interpreted in several ways.

A lot of di Prima’s works were centered around feminism, class, and sexuality. It makes sense that this poem particularly talks about the artistic freedom and women’s voice in the Beat movement of the ’50s as compared to their male counterparts. Throughout this piece, di Prima talks about how poetry is her sustenance (“bread”), and it is a vital part of her life and living. She expresses how the voice of female poets is often muted when it contains strong themes and tones. That’s why she fears her poems might be “unspent” and go “underground.” She is aware that her words are not “stone.” Thus, they will not be engraved upon and remain unchanged for centuries. However, she still believes that it will shine with all its might wherever her poetry lands.

You can read the full poem here.

Detailed Analysis

Lines 1-6

you are my bread

and the hairline


you are almost

the sea

In the first verse of ‘The Window,’ di Prima discusses how poetry is her “bread” – which means sustenance, a source of nourishment, and an impregnable part of her life. She calls it her “hairline,” which could mean the base of her imaginative mind or a seemingly small thing that can make a huge difference in her life. In the next lines, the speaker compares poetry to the “noise” of her “bones,” which explains her physical connection and enthusiasm when it comes to writing. The “sea,” in the last line, refers to a sort of unfathomable depth and chaos of her mind. Readers can barely measure its depth. Besides, the poet compares her immense affinity for poetry to the vastness of the sea.

Lines 7-10

you are not stone


you have no hands

In these lines, di Prima says that her words are not stone, which will remain unchanged and unaltered for centuries. Her words can be engraved on readers’ hearts, unlike the words set in stone. Furthermore, she says that her poetry is not a “molten sound” that fades in the distance. She is aware that her poetry will outlive her and will last for a long time. Unlike human beings, referred to by the term “hands,” poetry is immortal and eternal. Besides, one of the most essential and versatile parts of the body, the hands, creates and replenishes art. However, di Prima thinks her poetry has no hands. It is an intangible idea that can only be felt, not touched.

Lines 11-14

this kind of bird flies backward


where no light talks

In the third verse of ‘The Window,’ the poetic persona compares the voice in her poetry to a bird that flies backward. Birds are associated with freedom, peace, joy, healing, and good luck. In this line, the “bird” symbolizes the liberating effect of poetry. The hopeful tone of the poem shifts in the third line as the poet describes how “this love” crashes on a window and breaks itself. With such a drastic change in tone, she describes how even artistic expression can be distorted. Thus, the art of writing is a very challenging thing to do. It voices the emotions deep down in one’s heart where the light of conscience fails cannot reach.

Lines 15-25

this is not time

for crossing tongues


and shine

unspent and underground

In the fourth verse, di Prima alludes to the fact that the 1950s were not an easy time to argue about women’s rights. Despite that, the poet says that the ground she stands on is firm which refers to her values and artistic integrity. The “sand” is a metaphor for the basis of her works and her morals in life.

In the last verse, she says that her words might not be remembered one day. However, none can take away the power and strength her poetic words hold. Thus, even if her work is under a pile of books, it will not go unnoticed. The poet is confident about the fact that her poetry will continue to shine regardless of the circumstances. They will shine unspent even in the “underground” (an allusion to the Beat movement).


Di Prima’s ‘The Window’ captures the connection between the poet and her poetry. The speaker remarks, “this is not time/ for crossing tongues,” – since there was a disparity in how poems of the male and female writers of the Beat movement were received. She talks about how women’s issues and the female perspective were not openly talked about at that time. Yet many of di Prima’s poems were based on these topics since her principles were of high regard to her: “(the sand here/ never shifts).” Overall, this poem takes a brave and robust stance on poetry and the voice of a female poet.


‘The Window’ is written in free verse. It has a total of twenty-five lines that are divided into five verses. The lines are unevenly distributed in each verse, with the first verse having six lines, the second to fourth having four lines each, and the last stanza has seven lines. There is no particular rhyme scheme in this poem or a set metrical pattern. It is written from the perspective of a first-person speaker. This gives a lyrical quality to this free-verse piece. Besides, the speaker’s tone is strong and assertive.

Literary Devices

Di Prima makes use of the following literary devices in her poem ‘The Window.’

  • Apostrophe: The speaker addresses someone who is not present in the poem. For example, in the following lines, she addresses poetry: “you are my bread,” “you are not stone,” and “you have no hands.”
  • Metaphor: The poet compares her poetry to “bread.” She also compares it to her “hairline,” the “noise” of her bones, and the “sea.” By using these metaphors, she implies her undeniable connection with poetry.
  • Symbolism: In the line, “this kind of bird flies backward,” the speaker uses the “bird” as a symbol. It symbolizes freedom, joy, and healing. Here, the poet compares the perspective of female poets to be akin to the freedom and joy that birds symbolize.
  • Personification: It occurs in the lines, “and this love/ breaks on a windowpane/ where no light talks.” In these lines, “love” and “light” are personified.
  • Alliteration: It occurs in “this kind of bird flies backward,” “unspent and underground,” etc.
  • Parenthesis: Di Prima uses parenthesis in the last two lines of the fourth verse, “(the sand here/ never shifts).” Here, the poet shows how the ground of her poetry remains unchanged and unshakable. These lines showcase the strength of the principles with which she wrote poems.

Historical Context

‘The Window’ was published in di Prima’s collection of poetry, Pieces of a Song: Selected Poems, in 1990. Diane di Prima was an American poet and a prominent member of the Beat movement.

The Beat Generation was a literary movement started by some authors in the late 1950s. Their works explored and influenced American culture and politics in the post-war world. Di Prima took part in this emerging literary movement. Besides, she was an artist, writer, teacher, and activist. She edited The Floating Bear newspaper with Amiri Baraka and co-founded the New York Poets Theatre.

She was arrested by the FBI in 1961 for publishing two of her poems in The Floating Bear. According to di Prima, it happened because of the nature of her poetry.


What is the poem ‘The Window’ about?

Diane di Prima’s poem ‘The Window’ is about the poet’s connection with her work and the voice of the female poets. Throughout this piece, di Prima talks about what is the role of poetry in her life. Then she goes on to talk about the future of her works.

What is the message of ‘The Window’?

The message of the poem is that even if an artist’s work is not recognized or accepted, it still carries the same beauty as it would, had it been otherwise. The poet insists that her work will keep shining “unspent” even in the “underground.”

What type of poem is ‘The Window’?

The poem is written in free verse. There is no regular rhyme scheme or meter. It consists of a total of five verses, each having an odd number of lines. The lines are short and do not have a regular syntactical pattern. Besides, the poem is written from the perspective of a first-person speaker.

What is the tone of ‘The Window’?

The tone of the poem is strong and assertive. It reflects the poet’s belief in her poetry. Poetry to her is like breathing and eating. It is a window to her heart.

What is the theme of ‘The Window’?

This poem taps on a number of themes that include poetry, expression, the timelessness of art, and imagination. The main idea of the poem revolves around the poet’s connection to her art.

Similar Poems

Here is a list of a few poems that similarly tap on the themes present in Diane di Prima’s poem ‘The Window.’

You can also explore these in-depth poems about love.

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Sudip Das Gupta Poetry Expert
A complete expert on poetry, Sudip graduated with a first-class B.A. Honors Degree in English Literature. He has a passion for analyzing poetic works with a particular emphasis on literary devices and scansion.
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