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An Interview with Diane Frank


Diane Frank is author of eight books of poems, two novels, and a photo memoir of her 400-mile trek in the Nepal Himalayas. She is also Chief Editor of Blue Light Press. While Listening to the Enigma Variations: New and Selected Poems won the 2022 Next Generation Indie Book Award for Poetry. Diane plays cello in the Golden Gate Symphony and collaborated with Matt Arnerich to create an orchestral suite based on her poem, “Tree of Life.” She teaches poetry, fiction, flash fiction and memoir workshops at San Francisco State University and Dominican University.

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What inspired you to start writing this book?:

Poetry is how I express myself as a human soul. After my recent book, While Listening to the Enigma Variations was published by Glass Lyre Press, I wondered where I would go next creatively and what I had to say. Enigma won a big award, the 2022 Next Generation Indie Book Award for Poetry, for which I am very grateful. After that, it felt like a creative responsibility to go in a new direction, and the poems started coming. For me, writing poems is an expanded state of consciousness. The poems come by themselves, from the magic place, and then I work the language. When it’s time for a book, I take the best of what I have written since the last book.

Tell us the story of your book’s current title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?

“Prayer to the Invisible” is the title of one of the poems in my book, and it felt like the right title for the whole book. I wrote this poem a year after the synagogue shooting at Tree of Life in Pittsburgh. My dear friend from high school, Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, was among the 11 people murdered that morning, and I was devastated. It’s really different to lose a friend or family member in a mass shooting than just to read about it in the news. Four days after the shooting, I woke up with a powerful poem, “Tree of Life.”

A few weeks later, I was introduced to a gifted composer, Matt Arnerich, who already wanted to write music for the people who lost their lives that day. He wrote an orchestral suite, which was performed by the Golden Gate Symphony. The core of the piece is the Kaddish, a solo on the cello. In this YouTube video, you will hear me read my poem, with a segue to Jill Brindel, cellist from the San Francisco Symphony, and Matt Arnerich, the composer, playing the Kaddish. The title poem of my new book revisits this event a year later. It’s a prayer for our planet to survive and bloom again. It’s a prayer for peace.

Describe your dream book cover.

My dream book cover has a painting by Chagall. I am happy to share that I found a Chagall painting I love in the public domain.

If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?

That would be an easy question for my recent book. I wrote the first draft of the title poem at an SF Symphony concert while the orchestra was performing Elgar’s Enigma Variations. For this book, I’d probably pick a classical piece I have played with the Golden Gate Symphony or maybe a piece I have heard and adore. Since I’m a cellist along with being a poet, music often inspires my writing. I write on the program in the dark when I go to SF Symphony concerts, then go home & further work the language. I just let the images come, paying attention to the music and my inner world. At this moment, I would choose Scheherazade (Rimsky-Korsakov) for my new book.

What books are you reading (for research or comfort) as you continue the writing process?

Starfall in the Temple by Prartho Sereno. A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki. The Not Yet Fallen World by Stephen Dunn. My Sentence was a Thousand Years of Joy by Robert Bly. Poems by Rumi, Mirabai, Kabir, Mary Oliver, Jane Hirshfield, WS Merwin, Billy Collins, Joy Harjo, and Joseph DiPrisco.

What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?

Most people who know me are aware that I teach writing workshops at SF State University and Dominican University in San Rafael. I teach in the OLLI program so mainly work with older writers. They learn poetry, fiction, flash fiction and memoir from me, and I learn about life from them. I’m also Chief Editor of Blue Light press and lead the Blue Light Press On-Line Poetry Workshop—for info go to Along with playing cello in the Golden Gate Symphony, I usher for the San Francisco Symphony.

What few people know… When I was a teenager, I babysat and used the money I earned to buy a large reflector telescope.

Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?

I started writing poetry when I was 10 years old. My 4th grade teacher asked us to write a poem, but instead of just one poem, I wrote a whole book of poems illustrated with crayons. (My mother had already been reading me poetry for years.) When I was 19 years old, Stephen Dunn was my first poetry teacher at Syracuse University. He told me that I had a gift with poetry and should take it seriously. I adored him and we became friends for life. Robert Bly and Kathleen Fraser were also powerful mentors as I was coming of age as a poet.

Where is your favorite place to write?

At my desk with its beautiful view and during San Francisco Symphony concerts.

Do you have any writing rituals?

I love writing in the morning after a big cup of Red Rose tea with honey. I am often inspired to write after I meditate in the afternoon. I also love writing after waking up from a dream that deeply moves me, inspires me, or teaches me something I need to know. If I feel stuck, I get out of the house and take a walk.

What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?

To be inspired, creatively, musically, and to live the life their soul desires. The perfect reader is someone who will find the poems that speak deeply to them, savor the language, and take in the vision I share in my poems as a gift.

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