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Poetry Book Review:

Dear Anais: My Life In Poems For You

by Diana M. Raab

dear anais: my life in poems for youPoetic tributes are risky. You always skirt the possibility of embarrassing either yourself or the person you are seeking to honor. Diana Raab, however, has managed to capture the spirit of Anais Nin in her own personal, poetic memoir. It isn't perfect, but what is?

The words and lines themselves in Dear Anais: My Life In Poems For You are sensitive, erotic, and personal. To read them is like reclining in robe and slippers in the den of the poet herself, a comfortable guest, an honored companion treated to an insider's view of a sensual soul through the clear glass of welcomed hospitality. But to be fair, the poems in Dear Anais: My Life In Poems For You are more memoir than poetry, though it may be that the poetry is contained in the spirit of the memories and the way in which they are communicated.

Critics of Postmodern poetics would say that Raab's poetry is not poetic simply because it contains little in the way of traditional elements of poetry and that line breaks are the only thing that might distinguish the work from prose. There is some merit to this argument, but such a criticism misses a certain nuance upon which free verse built its house.

Diana Raab's verse is full of sensual charm and she has a rare ability to take unnatural risks. She shows her versatility on every page and the careful reader will notice the sweat that has been poured into each turn of phrase. In "A Woman's Life" she uses minimalism to walk us through the natural progression of pre-natal existence to death, exposing herself to begging questions that are intimated in the "kicking" within the womb - that life begins here - and the "dying" at the end - that perhaps this is all there is. The reader is forced to answer those questions for himself as the one word lines are only clues.

In "Luggage", Raab tries her hand at concrete poetry, turning the shape of the poem into a tall piece of Samsonite, like something an air traveler might wheel around the terminal before boarding.

It is hard to choose just one poem that represents the keen poetic eye of Diana Raab in Dear Anais: My Life In Poems For You, but here are the two short stanzas of "Laws of Attraction" to illustrate the subtleness of the poet's verbal tongue flicks on a reader's feigning skin:
In seventh grade
my physics teacher
took us on a sailboat.
He was a tall blue-eyed,
gray-haired guy
with a smile that
could power his vessel.
Dr. Cotton's lightness of being
pulled me in like the inertia
he professed. It's no wonder
that twenty years later I fell
for another physicist who
taught me that life
is all about energy.
Some of the poems in Dear Anais: My Life In Poems For You fall flat - "A Dictionary Of Secret Lovers" comes to mind - but in all, Raab's voice is pristine and beautiful. Her soft wit, inquisitive insightfulness, and her attention to detail in selecting just the right words to capture a moment are qualities to be admired. There are a few small irritations, but I would spend a couple of extra nights cozying up to Diana Raab on my pillow and fall asleep dreaming of her and Anais Nin with the words "the drink and snack we nibbled behind her back" rolling through the prisms in my mind.

Order your copy of

Dear Anais: My Life In Poems For You
by Diana M. Raab


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