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About this poet

On February 6, 1950, Deborah Digges was born in Jefferson City, Missouri. She received degrees from the University of California and the University of Missouri, as well as an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop.

She is the author of four books of poetry, including Rough Music (Alfred A. Knopf, 1995), winner of the Kingsley Tufts Prize, and most recently The Wind Blows Through the Doors of My Heart (Alfred A. Knopf, 2010). Her first book, Vesper Sparrows (Carnegie-Melon University Press, 1986), won the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Prize from New York University. Digges wrote two memoirs, Fugitive Spring (1991) and The Stardust Lounge (2001).

Her poems often rely on the relationship between humans and nature, the primitive urges of discovery and rediscovery, and the physical consequences of such momentary losses of the self. As Willard Spiegelman wrote for The Yale Review: "Thinking through images, Digges wends her insistent, surprising way down a path alternately straight and curving, placid and perilous."

When asked by the New York Times to name a book of poetry published in the last 25 years that has been personally meaningful, Sharon Olds responded that Digges's Trapeze "is a book that sort of threw me to my knees...a book that shows me how much truth, and feel-of-truth—embodying profound complex mourning—can be sung."

Digges received grants from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Ingram Merrill Foundation and taught in the graduate writing divisions of New York University, Boston University, and Columbia University. She lived in Massachusetts, where she was a professor of English at Tufts University. She died on April 10, 2009.


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The Wind Blows Through the Doors of My Heart

Deborah Digges, 1950 - 2009
The wind blows
through the doors of my heart.
It scatters my sheet music
that climbs like waves from the piano, free of the keys.
Now the notes stripped, black butterflies,
flattened against the screens.
The wind through my heart
blows all my candles out.
In my heart and its rooms is dark and windy.
From the mantle smashes birds' nests, teacups
full of stars as the wind winds round,
a mist of sorts that rises and bends and blows
or is blown through the rooms of my heart
that shatters the windows,
rakes the bedsheets as though someone
had just made love. And my dresses
they are lifted like brides come to rest
on the bedstead, crucifixes,
dresses tangled in trees in the rooms
of my heart. To save them
I've thrown flowers to fields,
so that someone would pick them up
and know where they came from.
Come the bees now clinging to flowered curtains.
Off with the clothesline pinning anything, my mother's trousseau.
It is not for me to say what is this wind
or how it came to blow through the rooms of my heart.
Wing after wing, through the rooms of the dead
the wind does not blow. Nor the basement, no wheezing,
no wind choking the cobwebs in our hair.
It is cool here, quiet, a quilt spread on soil.
But we will never lie down again.

From The Wind Blows Through the Doors of My Heart by Deborah Digges. Copyright © 2010 by Deborah Digges. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf.

From The Wind Blows Through the Doors of My Heart by Deborah Digges. Copyright © 2010 by Deborah Digges. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf.

Deborah Digges

Deborah Digges

Deborah Digges's poems often rely on the relationship between humans and nature, the primitive urges of discovery and rediscovery, and the physical consequences of such momentary losses of the self.

by this poet

poem
My life's calling, setting fires. 
Here in a hearth so huge 
I can stand inside and shove 
the wood around with my 
bare hands while church bells
deal the hours down through 
the chimney. No more 
woodcutter, creel for the fire 
or architect, the five staves 
pitched like rifles over stone. 
But to be mistro-
poem
I can bless a death this human, this leaf 
the size of my hand. From the life-line spreads

a sapped, distended jaundice 
toward the edges, still green.

I've seen the sick starve out beyond 
the grip of their disease.

They sleep for days, their stomachs gone, 
the bones in their hands

seeming to rise to the
poem
Ponds are spring-fed, lakes run off rivers. 
Here souls pass, not one deified, 
and sometimes this is terrible to know 
three floors below the street, where light drinks the world, 
siphoned like music through portals. 
How fed, that dark, the octaves framed faceless. 
A memory of water. 
The trees more