Jul 11, 2012

Book Review: Listening to Africa: Poems by Diana M. Raab

"The Nabinian sky
lingers clear and endless
over the lavender orange chain

of numbered sand dunes"

(from"Balloon Rides")

Title: Listening to Africa: Poems by Diana M. Raab
Published March 18, 2012; Antrim House

Poet Diana M. Raab travels to the heart of Africa with her family to experience the beauty and fascination of another world. During her safari, she observes the distress, the delight, and the dignity of the humans and animals who live there and parallels them with her own quest for health. (book description)

About the book: Diana M. Raab has written a book of 41 poems about her trip with her family to three countries in Africa - Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe. The poems are written in chronological order with her trip, from her packing and mental preparations for travel to the plane rides and her tours of each country.

My comments: Raab travels to Africa battling illness and cancer, and her awareness of her physical health makes her more sensitive to what she sees in the undeveloped areas of Africa. She cringes at the poverty, the disease, and the germs she imagines is in everything and everywhere, and at times is homesick for the relative safety of the doctors and medicines in America.
While traveling this continent
my safari pants' pockets
brim with Western remedies

to fend off threatened diseases
as germs and parasites conspire against me
within the waters and dense canopies.
(from "Disease Dance")
It is not until almost the end of her visit to the first country in her itinerary, Namibia, that she begins to lose herself in her surroundings and the beauty of the natural world around her and to forget her illness now and again. She is able to appreciate the other two countries much more - the wildlife and the countryside and begins to write about "Hippos," "Baobab Trees and Hyenas," "Mischievous Monkeys," the camp, a visit to the market, Victoria Falls, giraffes.

But she is always aware of the poverty around her. As she leaves Africa, she gives their bundles of safari clothing to her guide, who says, "You have made me a spiritual millionaire!" She leaves Africa with strong memories "guaranteed to make you weep,even/if you live your time there in unforgettable fear."

I liked those poems best in which she loses herself in her environment and into the other world of Africa.
I hear unrecognizable sounds
of animals singing
elusive evening melodies.
(from "Creatures")
I did also appreciate her viewpoints and astute observations of the difference between life in the West and places she visited. I hesitate to give a rating to this book as reading poetry, I find, is such a subjective experience. This however, is a very interesting record of a woman's journey outside of herself,  seeing herself in a different country and world, and recording it in poetry.


Diana Raab is a memoirist, essayist and poet as well as a registered nurse. She has a B.S. in Health Administration and Journalism, and an RN degree in addition to an MFA in Nonfiction Writing. Diana teaches creative journaling and memoir in workshops around the country.

Raab is the author of two memoirs, Regina's Closet: Finding My Grandmother's Secret Journal, winner of the 2008 National Indie Excellence Award for Memoir and Healing With Words, the 2011 Mom's Choice Award Winner for Adult Nonfiction. She is author of four poetry collections.

Author Web Site: http://dianaraab.com/
Blog: http://dianaraab.com/blog/
Listening to Africa's Facebook:http://www.facebook.com/ListeningToAfrica
Visit Tribute Book Blog Tour schedule for a list of other reviews of Listening to Africa. I received a
complimentary review copy through the blog tour.

6 comments:

  1. It sounds like a wonderful book from an extremely talented poet. Thank you for this review, and wishing Carol much success with her book!

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  2. Oh sorry, I meant Diana, not Carol!

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  3. This does sound like a wonderful book. It is my dream to one day see the beauty of Africa firsthand.

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  4. Harvee, thank you for the beautifully written and heartfelt review of Diana's book. It is much appreciated.

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  5. I like that these poems are written in chronological order because they really do show and tell the journey that the author takes both in her body and in her mind. This was a great review and I enjoyed reading your thoughts about this collection!

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  6. Thank you for reviewing my book. I am glad you enjoyed it!

    Cheers,
    Diana
    http://www.dianaraab.com

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