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Interview with Poet Diana Raab

I’d like to welcome poet Diana Raab to Savvy Verse & Wit. Yesterday, I reviewed her poetry collection, Dear Anaïs: My Life in Poems for You. You can read my review of her collection, here.

Please welcome Diana:

1. Do you see spoken word, performance, or written poetry as more powerful or powerful in different ways and why? Also, do you believe that writing can be an equalizer to help humanity become more tolerant or collaborative? Why or why not?

I find all forms of poetry powerful—spoken word, performance and written poetry. Poetry nurtures the soul and expresses core emotions and for this reason it can serve as an equalizer to help us all become more tolerant. This is particularly true for what I call “accessible poetry,” or poetry that reaches out with words that the reader can understand, feel or touch.

2. Do you have any obsessions that you would like to share?

My obsession is writing and getting my words out into the universe. I spend at least ten hours a day in my office, either creating or marketing my work. My other passion is reading. I suppose there is a fine line between having an obsession and a passion. For me, writing and reading wear both of these hats.

3. Most writers will read inspirational/how-to manuals, take workshops, or belong to writing groups. Did you subscribe to any of these aids and if so which did you find most helpful? Please feel free to name any “writing” books you enjoyed most (i.e. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott).

I have been writing since the age of ten, so it would be impossible to list all the books and resources which have inspired me as a writer.

In the 1980s and 1990s, I attended many writing conferences and workshops. There was something contagious about being around other writers producing work. Both The University of Iowa’s Summer Writing Program and AWP have sparked a great deal of interest for me. These days I teach at the conferences and even as a teacher it is inspiring.

As a journaling advocate, I have found that reading the journals of Anaïs Nin helped me find my own voice. This is the main reason I have decided to dedicate this latest book of poems to her.

4. Poetry is often considered elitist or inaccessible by mainstream readers. Do poets have an obligation to dispel that myth and how do you think it could be accomplished?

I think the idea of poetry being elitist and inaccessible is an old concept. Much of contemporary poetry is accessible. I believe that the former poet laureate of the United States, Billy Collins, is greatly responsible for this change. He brought poetry 180 into the schools. His accessible poetry has inspired many people, including myself, to write poetry.

5. When writing poetry, prose, essays, and other works do you listen to music? Do you have a particular playlist for each genre you work in or does the playlist stay the same? What are the top 5 songs on that playlist? If you don’t listen to music while writing, do you have any other routines or habits?

The decision to listen to music while writing depends upon my mood. Sometimes I need music, other times, any bit of noise irks me. If I do listen to music, I might listen to the words of Leonard Cohen and also some instrumental music such as new age music geared towards productivity and concentration.

My writing habit entails working on a few projects at the same time, often times in different genres. I enjoy the variety and find that each genre feeds off the other. However, if I have an impending deadline, I am able to focus and wrap up a project if I either put a ‘Do Not Disturb,’ sign on my door or just go away to an undisclosed place for a writing retreat.

6. In terms of friendships, have your friendships changed since you began focusing on writing? Are there more writers among your friends or have your relationships remained the same?

This is difficult to answer, since I have always written. I have a mix of literary and non-literary friends.

7. How do you stay fit and healthy as a writer?

I work out at the gym with a trainer three times a week. I try to walk every day with my dog anywhere from 30-60 minutes. I also do restorative yoga once a week and meditate every day. All these activities help me focus on my work.

8. Do you have any favorite foods or foods that you find keep you inspired? What are the ways in which you pump yourself up to keep writing and overcome writer’s block?

I do not believe in writer’s block. It’s just an excuse not to write. I think that those who keep journals rarely experience writer’s block. If I am not feeling creative, I will just free-write in my journal and usually something interesting will come of it. Sometimes I read the words of my favorite writers to inspire me. I also often read the journals of Anaïs Nin because both her sensibilities and voice seem to resonate with me.

9. Please describe your writing space and how it would differ from your ideal writing space.

I have a writing studio which is my favorite room in the house. In taking Virginia Woolf’s advice quite seriously, I have found a room with a view overlooking the mountains of southern California. I use a laptop on my desk and there are many bookshelves behind my desk with my favorite books, most of them autographed. I have a painting by Edward Hopper hanging on the wall opposite my desk.

Other framed items include the book jacket of my memoir, Regina’s Closet: Finding My Grandmother’s Secret Journal, and a quote by Mark Twain which says, “The difference between the almost right word and the right word, is really large matter—it’s the difference between the lightening bug and the lightening.” I am a lover of quotations and over the years, I have collected many favorite ones.

10. What current projects are you working on and would you like to share some details with the readers?

I have just finishing editing an anthology I compiled called Writers and Their Notebooks. It is forthcoming by the University of South Carolina Press in February 2010. I am very excited about this collection. It includes essays written by well-published writers who used journals in their practice, such as Dorianne Laux, Sue Grafton, John DuFresne, Kim Stafford, Ilan Stavans, Michelle Wildgen. The preface was written by Phillip Lopate.

I am also working on another poetry collection and a memoir.

11. I’ve noticed reading some of your initial poems that there is an ironic sense near the end of these verses. Was this sense of irony intentional? Like in “Jones Beach” where the mother is an environmentalist and yet serves her children cookies that are appetite suppressants.

Yes. My poems just come out of me in one fell-swoop. They are not premeditated or calculated.

12. Anaïs Nin was a diarist and your poems seem to be like diary entries as well. Did all of these poems come immediately following your in-depth reading of her work or did they evolve over time? Would you consider Dear Anaïs representative of all of your work or do you craft a variety of poem forms and types?

All of my poems were born on the pages of my journal. I create best with pen in hand. I devoted this latest collection to Nin because reading her journals helped me find my voice. I am a narrative poet and yes, my latest book of poetry is a fair representation of my work. I will be experimenting with other forms, but this is representative of my work at this point in time.

Thank you Diane for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer my questions. I wish you luck with your latest projects and look forward to seeing your latest projects in print.

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 on my review post, here.

2. Comment on this interview with something other than “pick me” or “enter me.”

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.