Author: Diana M. Raab
ISBN: 10: 1935514393   13: 978-1935514398

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The Guilt Gene is a quick one-sitting read -- which raises the question, should a book of poetry be a quick one-sitting read? I've been reading Patricia Young's layered and beautiful Here Come the Moonbathers for a month now - to speed up would cause my head to crack.

If you love reading peoples' journals, you may really like this book. These skim the surface of the author's life: she has kids, had a mastectomy, lives near the beach, walks her dog, gets espressos, travels, is married, and according to how you read two poems possibly having an affair.

Stylistically, Raab attempts to write like Philip Schulz.  By the way, his book Failure contains brilliant poems that tiptoe up and then slam you with their power.  Raab's broken line journal entries function as notes, as glances, and with an attitude that whatever momentarily surrounds her makes for fine scribbling.  The poems exist with a journal's extremely casual attitude toward language and again, if you crave the sort of writing found in journals you'll probably like them.  Do not look for poems that appear tweaked, finessed, charged, lived with, slept with, or carefully crafted. Look for poems that function as general observations packaged with cute and tidy closure. Here are two examples.

She writes:

"whispering/our good-byes to each other because/some indescribable and unknowable/ force"

I believe one of any poet's main jobs is to take the indescribable and unknowable and make it tangible for the reader, to move far away from the general and the vague.   This instance begs for a metaphor, for example.

After stating women suffer post-partum [sic], the author asks:

"why can't writers/after delivering a book/suffer post-ISBN?"

Authors send a draft, (deliver is the key word play here for the author). The manuscript is usually reworked with or following the advice of an editor.  ISBN's are assigned later by the publisher often months after the book is sent to the publisher.  Let's dig a bit more.  Are we being directed toward word play? Is been?  I is Bean?  We expect that because of the stanza parallelism and end of the line similarity.  No, unfortunately I suspect this is just a cutesy play on a random element related to book publishing. The larger issue is this:  I shouldn't be asking these sorts of questions. This neither has the clarity found in Frost or the elliptic quality of Lucie Brock-Broido.

I also dislike having these sorts of questions:  Were Ziploc bags were common in the 60's? I think they were called something else.  A net search found Remington typewriter with a swastika (why did Raab capitalize this word?) although they did make one with an SS runes character as a shift key. Was lamination common in the 60's?  It's sixth sense, not fifth sense.

The two good pieces in the book are when Raab actually stops trying to write capital P Poetry.  In She Had Attitude, drop the title and the last line and the work gets witty with the cliché phrases actually supporting the tone. Losing My Menopause is the best in the book, it's very journalistic with a meta-comment kicker at the end.  Journaling is her strength.

My main recommendation is slow down.  Read poetry widely and deeply.  Drop the titles that are too cute and often completely wrong as in Scrabble Scramble.  Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite, repeat.  Think as deeply as possible about what each poem is supposed say and how to say it.  Rewrite some more and let the poem sit for a year or two.  It really is quality, not quantity. Out of this, eventually, slowly, the author's voice may develop, a voice which I really wanted and missed in this book.

Click Here To Purchase The Guilt Gene