Today we're talking with Diana M. Raab, author of Listening to Africa
FQ: How did you first decide to go on safari?
My father died twenty-five years ago a few days before Christmas. Ever since then, December has been a depressing time of year for me. In 2008, I decided I wanted to do something different. We always wanted to go to Africa and now that my children are all in their mid-twenties, we thought this would be a good time. We started planning the trip just two months before the journey. We had a fabulous travel agent.
FQ: When did you realize that this journey would become a collection of poems?
Before leaving on my trip, my friend Tristine Rainer told me that a book of poetry might be a good idea because so many people are curious about Africa but will never make it there.
FQ: As I was reading, I imagined you with a pencil and notebook, jotting down the scenes as they were happening. Is this how it was? Or did you do a lot of writing after returning from your trip?
I am an avid journal keeper so I documented my trip each day. Some of the documentation is in the form of prose and others in the form of poetry. Thus, when pulling together the collection after returning to the United States, the poetry remained poetry and the prose was transformed into poetry.
FQ: Can you tell us about your writing process?
When writing poetry, in particular, I begin with either a feeling or an image or poem title and then go from there. I never know where the poem will lead me. The joy of writing poetry is the very pleasant surprise when, in the end, it all comes together.
FQ: Which poets have most influenced your writing?
Billy Collins, Sharon Olds, Pablo Neruda.
FQ: Readers will get the sense that your trip through three African countries has changed you. Can you describe the ways in which it altered your perspective?
Africa reminded me of the fragility of life. It elicits a sense of danger and survival, while at the same time a fascination with nature. After visiting Africa I realized how little we need to live in order to be happy and that happiness is really a state of mind and not something that can be measured by bank accounts, ownerships and belongings.
FQ: What is your next project?
I am working on another poetry collection. I write regularly for the Huffington Post and teach about the healing power of writing. I am currently a PhD candidate in psychology in California.