Dear Anais by Diana Raab

I received Dear Anaïs: My Life in Poems for You by Diana M. Raab from the author for review, I’m thrilled to say that Raab’s use of language in a format that resembles diary entries is fantastic. The volume begins with a letter to Anaïs about how she inspired Raab through her journals, particularly Anaïs’ entries about the house Eric Lloyd Wright built for her.

Each poem provides the reader with an insider’s look at Raab’s life and her interactions with family and others. Mirroring Anaïs Nin’s style, Raab seeks to demonstrate how important love is to humanity and how important it is to maintain our connections to one another.

Here’s her poem, “Weekly Lottery“:

Giving into his obsessions
was one thing my father did
almost every day of his life
for the fifty years which
he lived after The Holocaust
which robbed him of his parents
and baby brother Josh, putting
he and his brother in Dachau’s
kitchen, slicing potatoes and
saving friends from starvation
as the Nazis dined off Rosenthal
plates confiscated from Jews
tossed into frigid barracks and
stripped of everything ever
important to them.

Dad’s first treat, after arriving
in the United States with his brother Bob,
was using his factory paycheck for
a weekly lottery ticket, awaiting
the easy windfall, a sham of
good fortune, as if winning
the lottery was a ticket for
a new freedom boat. His
bliss stretched to winning five
tickets, five more scratches of
horizontal square boxes with
the same 1945 nickel which
he always carried in his pocket
for good luck, maybe not
enough cents to keep the
inveterate smoker alive past 70.

Raab’s poetry is detailed, vivid, and critical of its own subject matter and the narrator’s voice is often ironic in the final stanza or lines, reminding readers of how haiku can shed light on the most mundane of natural circumstances. In this poem, “Weekly Lottery,” Raab uses short lines and long sentences to build momentum, which invariably builds suspense for the reader.

Poems about the holocaust and WWII and war in general often attract my attention, which is probably why this poem has stuck with me since I first read Dear Anaïs. And I’ve already read through this book several times. There are a number of poems in here about Raab’s relatives and their dealings with war and the concentration camps.

This is an enjoyable collection of contemporary poems for every reader. Readers can connect with Raab through her poetry, including the hardship of loss and the nuances of daily living. Writers will enjoy her poems that deal with the writing process such as “Sketch of a Writer’s Studio” and “Sheets.” My personal favorite in this section was “On Demand,” which is about much more than just writing poems upon request.

About the Poet:

Diana M. Raab, MFA is a memoirist, essayist and poet. She teaches memoir, journaling and poetry in the UCLA Writers Program and the Santa Barbara Writers Conference. She also narrates and teaches workshops around the country.

Diana has been writing from an early age. As an only child of two working parents, she spent a lot of time crafting letters and keeping a daily journal. In university she studied journalism, health administration and nursing, all serving as platforms for her years as a medical and self-help writer.

Raab’s memoir, Regina’s Closet: Finding My Grandmother’s Secret Journal (2007) won the National Indie Excellence Award for Memoir and was the recipient of many other honors.

Raab’s work has been published in numerous literary magazines and has been widely anthologized. She has one poetry chapbook, My Muse Undresses Me and one poetry collection, Dear Anaïs: My Life in Poems for You (2008).

She’s editor of a forthcoming anthology, Writers and Their Notebooks (USC Press, 2009) which is a collection of essays written by well-known writers who journal, including Sue Grafton, Kim Stafford, Dorianne Laux, John DuFresne, James Brown and Michael Steinberg, to name a few. The foreword is written by the world-renowned personal essayist, Phillip Lopate.

Stay Tuned for my Interview with Diana, tomorrow March 12.

And now, for the giveaway information: (3 Winners)

Diana has graciously offered one copy of Dear Anaïs: My Life in Poems for You and 2 copies of her chapbook My Muse Undresses Me.

1. Leave a comment about what inspired you to give this collection a try.
2. Tune in tomorrow and comment on my interview with Diana

Deadline is March 18, 5PM EST.

Randomizer.org will select the three winners; the first number selected will win Dear Anaïs: My Life in Poems for You.


***Another Giveaway***

Check out this link to win a copy of Mr & Mrs Darcy: Two Shall Become One by Sharon Lathan.

***In Other News***

Savvy Verse & Wit has a spotlight guest post up at She Is Too Fond of Books; Check out my bookstore spotlight about Politics & Prose.