There are a few moments in life during which one can grasp their passion and mold it into fruition. University of West Georgia alumna Diamond Forde recalls two moments that would determine her direction, one that ultimately led to earning one of the highest national awards for poetry, the Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship.
“There’s the romantic answer, where I say poetry found me early,” said Forde, who graduated from UWG with her English degree in 2014. “It found the young girl hiding in her bedroom reading Maya Angelou’s ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,’ wanting, most of all, to write poems to comfort me in times of sorrow. Of course, what did I really know about sorrow at that age?”
However, Forde knows a childhood passion held in suspense can be found again long after it has parted with its holder.
“The second – and perhaps more truthful – answer is that I registered for the creative writing learning community in my first year at UWG,” said Forde. “I learned that writing could be a communal experience, which was so unlike how I saw writing before – isolated, with no one around to understand or even read my woes.”
Initially, Forde chose UWG as her university because of its affordability and proximity to home. Raised in a military family, she valued stability while pursuing her academic career. Although UWG began as a choice of convenience, it altered the course of Forde’s relationship with writing.
“I thought that writing was a lonely process before UWG,” explained Forde. “Through this university, I found out that writing was intensely about community – working together to grow together, to create new, beautiful, and exciting works and put that into the world.”
Forde connected with UWG professors such as Drs. Chad Davidson, Katherine Chaple, Gregory Fraser, Melanie Jordan and more, who urged her to continue pursuing poetry during this transformative period. These inspirations led Forde to a milestone in her career as a poet when she was awarded the Lilly and Rosenberg Fellowship.
The fellowship honors gifted young poets from ages 21-31 to provide support as they pursue future endeavors in their poetry careers. Forde was among four other fellows who received an outstanding award of $25,800 each. Earning this award speaks not only to the capabilities of Forde’s poetry but her ability to impact her readers profoundly. The fellowship created a full-circle effect for Forde when realizing there was a time when this award felt near impossible.
“I’m still a bit shaken,” said Forde. “I remember, as an undergraduate, having Chad Davidson encourage me to apply. Even then, it felt so far out of reach.”
Forde’s perseverance and ability to compose art through language captured that “out-of-reach” opportunity. Her debut collection, “Mother Body,” was the winner of the 2019 Saturnalia Poetry Prize and a finalist for the 2022 Kate Tufts Discovery Award.
“It’s wonderful validation to have that recognition of my work – to be told, on a grand scale, that I’m doing something right,” she said. “Writing is just part of the work. I’m doing what I love. I appreciate everything that allows me to continue doing it.”
Forde continues to strive toward new endeavors, such as a possible second book or poetic-comic writing.
“A love for language keeps bringing me back to the page,” she concluded. “I love language: its successes and its failures. There was a time when anxiety, fear or anger was the major motivator dragging me to the page, a response to our chaotic world. Now, delight seems to be the thing that keeps bringing me back.”