Diane Wakoski was born in Whittier, California, in 1937 to parents who shaped not only her life but also her poetry. Shortly after her birth, her father, John Joseph Wakoski, reenlisted in the U.S. Navy and made it his career. Her contact with the “Prince Charming” figure, as she describes him in an autobiographical account, was infrequent and unfulfilling, leaving her with a sense of loss she later explored in her poetry. Her relations with her mother were equally unsatisfying and stressful; by the time she left high school, Wakoski says, she found her mother, whom her father had divorced, a “burden.” Speaking of her childhood, Wakoski claims that she was born into a “world of silence,” that she was “surrounded by silent people.” She was poor, emotionally isolated (she also had few friends), and—from her own point of view—physically unattractive. These factors surely relate to the fixation with male figures and subsequent betrayal in her poems and explain, to some extent, the compulsive need to analyze, to dissect, and to communicate at length in a prolific body of work.
The only positive reinforcement she received in high school was from sympathetic teachers who encouraged the development of her academic talents. She also discovered that she enjoyed performing for an audience. (This “exhibitionistic” tendency, as she has described it, is reflected in her poetry readings, which are very much “performances.”) After graduation from high school, she passed up a scholarship to the University of California, Berkeley, and attended Fullerton Junior College because she expected her high school sweetheart to enroll there as well. When he attended a different college and responded dutifully, not supportively, to the news of her pregnancy, she experienced a “betrayal,” rejected his marriage proposal, and subsequently gave up her baby for adoption....
(The entire section is 770 words.)