Diana Raab took some 15 years to put her fourth collection of poems together, not because she takes time writing, but because of the subject.
“Lust” (CW Books, $19) features a naked woman lying on a bed in a fetal position, her hair obscuring her face. These are private moments, it seems to say … come read what they are.
“This is the longest time I’ve collected poems to put into a book. They’ve been on the backburner,” Mrs. Raab tells the News-Press. “They’re kind of risqué … But Barry Spacks (Santa Barbara’s first poet laureate who died earlier this week on Jan. 28) said it well: They’re fearless poems; they say things that people are afraid to say about feelings, fantasies, imagination. Most people would keep them in a locked computer file, which I did! And then I realized that, you know what, these are universal feelings.”
Mrs. Raab has several local signings planned, including 6 p.m. Saturday at Granada Books, 1224 State St.; 5:30 p.m. Feb. 13 at Tecolote Book Shop, 1470 East Valley Road, Montecito; and 2 to 4 p.m. Feb. 14 at Lily, 1131 Coast Village Road, Montecito.
Some of the titles in “Lust” are provocative and loaded: “What Women Want” suggests a few things: “I need the love my mother never gave me/I need the love my father took/with him to his grave.” “Orgasm” finds its narrator “Thinking of you/or anything connected with you/creates joyous contractions/in places saved only for you.”
Mrs. Raab was born in Brooklyn and was wed in 1977. She’s still married to her husband, Simon, who’s involved in medical technological start-ups, all these years later. They raised their three kids, now ages 30, 28 and 25, in Montreal and moved to Montecito 10 years ago.
“Poetry is all about story, and it’s not necessarily that they’re all true,” she says when asked if the pieces are inspired by her husband. “It’s creativity. We’re not talking journalism.”
Mrs. Raab’s poetry works come out of her lifelong passion for journaling. She teaches classes on it, and she’s been keeping a journal since she was 10 years old, first as a means of dealing with her grandmother’s suicide.
“My mother had no idea how to help me with this terrible loss,” she says. “But she was an English teacher, so she handed me a journal and said. ‘Write your feelings, dear.’ I was an only child who talked to her dolls, so I talked to my journal.”
Most of her poems start in her journal and get fleshed out. And though she doesn’t write in it every day, the pages are a constant companion. She works and reworks her poems. There’s no way to tell what was written first, she says.
Appropriately, the newest collection is timed to Valentine’s Day, as it was just launched Feb. 1. Mrs. Raab admits to being a romantic — though she’s no slave to the date.
“It’s become a bit of a Hallmark holiday,” she concedes of Feb. 14. “But I think a lot of our passions and habits start in childhood. My dad used to buy me one of those hearts with chocolate inside. So it’s a habit that I generated with my kids.
“I don’t know if my husband likes it (Feb. 14) much, because he wants every day to be Valentine’s Day!”
The thread running through the book, she says, is not just lust in the biblical sense — her husband is French and one of their wedding gifts was a copy of ‘The Joy of Sex’ — but “a lust for life … I’m a two-time cancer survivor and I’ve realized the fragility of life. We need to enjoy and appreciate every moment we have. So, it’s really the lust for living in general.
“I know that lust is depicted in a very pornographic way here in media,” Mrs. Raab says. “But maybe I’m trying to change that. I’m trying to bring the beauty into lust, romance and passion.
“When you stop having passion — either for another person or a profession — you might as well die.”