Listening to Africa
by Diana Raab


Antrim House, 2012. ISBN 978-1-936-48218-4.
Reviewed by Judith Helburn
Posted on 06/20/2012

Poetry; Nonfiction: Life Lessons; Nonfiction: Faith/Spirituality/Inspiration

Poet Diana Raab traveled to Africa with her family and returned with both a poem story about their journey and her inner journey as one who is living with cancer.

I found myself nodding and saying "yes, yes" to myself as she brought back to me my own African experiences so poignantly over and over. The rewards of "this place which will remind you of the reason for living" are worth the travel discomfort. We, too, took our children and grandchildren and found that "this visit [did] leave a trail of imprints"... [and they] will always remember this odyssey into the deepest nights of Africa."

The poem "Suspended in a Telescope" brought tears to my eyes as I, too, recalled seeing the vastness of the starry sky and did not have to compare them to "the clusters of malignancies in my own bone marrow." In "Digestive Paranoia" Raab writes humorously of the precautions we travelers take, sometimes forgetting what we, as settlers brought to the aborigines of our own country.

Best of all, however, are her capturing of the land, the animals and the people. "The Namibian sky/ lingers clear and endless/ over the lavender orange chain/ of numbered sand dunes." And, "Amidst the jungle/ and animals/ I saw a giraffe/ all beige/ with black speckles..." And, "...desperate merchants continue to plead/ their wings spread across the van's/ roof and windows, pressing their crafts onto us—one more attempt to feed/ their famished families—in this local market."

In a short book of poems, Raab captures the splendor and the sorrow of Africa. She records her physical illness and open spirit. One does not have to visit Africa to fully engage in this story poem. It is full of lyricism and truth.


Diana Raab is an award-winning poet, memoirist and registered nurse who teaches in the UCLA Extension Writers' Program and at various conferences around thecountry. Her poetry and prose have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. For more information, visit her website.

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