Dear Anaïs: My Life in Poems for You
by Diana M. Raab

Plainview Press, 2008. ISBN 978-1-891386-41-1.
Reviewed by Susan Wittig Albert
Posted on 10/28/2008


It's a brave woman who lays her life on the line. Diana Raab has done this in Dear Anaïs, a collection of poems drawn from the pages of her journal. The title of the book refers to Anaïs Nin, a memoirist who helped shape the art of life-writing and to whom all memoirists owe a large debt.

Raab chooses to repay that debt by setting lines from her prose journal in the form of verse, creating vignettes that call our close attention to the dailiness of her life experiences. Her unflagging efforts to capture the smallest details ("pads of notes,/boxes of dated journals, tins of obsolete manuscripts") help to record life lived to its fullest. Some images are sharply memorable—the "lonely locals" sharing neighborhood gossip at the laundromat, "hanging out awaiting the end/of their spin cycles." For Raab, everything tells a story. Her task is to record what she sees and hears, without poetic polish or embellishment:

Wherever you turn—above your head,
behind your back, under your ass,
you'll find a story.

These are poems written in an honest, authentic voice. Like unretouched snapshots, they bear unflinching witness to Diana Raab's experience of love, loss, and life.

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. Her memoir, Regina's Closet: Finding My Grandmother's Secret Journal (2007), won the National Indie Excellence Award for Memoir.

She is the 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. Visit her website.

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