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Dear Anais: My Life in Poems for You

Dear Anais: My Life in Poems for You

By: Diana M. Raab
Publisher: Plain View Press 
Publication date: August 31, 2008 
ISBN: 978-1-891386-41-1 
Reviewed by: Lauren E. Victor 
Review Date: November 6, 2008 

Writer Diana Raab takes a brave step to publish a journal of her own dedicated to famed diarist Anais Nin. Essentially Ms. Raab has compiled a collection of poems spanning stages of her life, which shares a satisfying taste of her personal story. The collection reads like a comfortable letter to a friend, it flows smoothly and often invokes smiles and sympathy as a reader.

In fact, the collection includes a preface penned by Tristine Rainer, a personal friend of Anais Nin, which seems endorsement enough to justify a title dedication to such an écrivain célèbre. Having never met Ms. Nin, Ms. Raab has derived inspiration from and has felt an alliance with the writer through reading and relating to her extensive journals. Like Ms. Nin, Ms. Raab is talented in articulating an independent woman's perspective.

Each poem commemorates scenes of Ms. Raab's life, organized into chronological snapshots that contribute dimension to her personal story. She is able to clearly paint scenarios of moments and recreate emotions and perspectives from far back to her childhood. For instance, in Figure Skating she examines her relationship with her father, frankly observing the skating lessons he taught her that were supposedly to bring them closer, but deciding to quit "after losing too many competitions/and discovering boys were more fun." Amidst the minimalist writing style, there are also beautifully spun moments, like when she reflects on the man who left her,

wondering what happened 
to the good times we spent
evaporated like the steam
of my kettle 
getting ready to pour 
my morning coffee 
which lifts my head up 
from the hole where it's buried 
because you left me. 

A constant throughout the collection is the humor she can bring to tragedy, and her keen sense of observation, noting and relishing what would generally be considered simple moments in life, or at least what would seem so at first glance. Ms. Raab makes witty parallels across life experiences, such as in Nirvana Dreams, as she compares a headshop of her youth in the 70's, promising

a safe haven, offering
a calm transcending my fifteen-year-old psyche 
I wish there was a store like it here 
in my neighborhood now. 
I'll settle for the natural health 
food store, which offers the same sort of claim. 

Ms. Raab's collection is easy to relate to, and her maturation is clearly traced through her writing. She can bring alive an adolescence through a decade of peace and love, as well as depict more trying times of adultery and depression. Despite a depth she achieves, it is easy to be left wanting a bit more of her unique expression; however, it is a pleasant book to travel through if you are looking for a little something you can put down and pick up without missing a beat.

Quill Says: An enjoyable collection of present-day poetry, easily digested as you curl up with a cup of tea.

For more information on Dear Anais: My Life in Poems for You, please visit the author's website at:

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