10 Questions for Diamond Forde
- By Edward Clifford
he told me he was glad I wasn't fat yet
but this time, with flesh glutinous on my arms and back,
hips spread like grain, I wax at his bedside and watch
his violeting cheeks, their bruised orchids flutter
with every labored breath and I allow myself
to imagine what he must see:five years and my body
pours like golden-throated honey. We are breatheless.
—from "The Last Time I Saw My Grandfather," from Volume 61, Issue 2 (Summer 2020)
Tell us about one of the first pieces you wrote.
I think early on, writing became one of the places where I could say what I was never confident enough to say in real life. Poetry is a contradiction in that way—it creates a space of vulnerability, but in that space you learn self-confidence.
One of the first pieces I remember getting recognition for was a poem I wrote about this white guy I was dating, which is only relevant because, one day, his mother found us kissing in his room, and she was devastated. She refused to give us blessing, said that she knew it was wrong to be upset to see her son with a black woman, but racism was so commonplace when she was growing up. . . That was a hard interaction. Up until that point, she had treated me like her own daughter. It was hard to swallow my hurt long enough to tell her her rejection hurt me. Only poetry allowed me that time and space. It was poetry that let me tell her I didn’t really need her blessing to begin with. Honestly, that relationship was trash anyway.
What writer(s) or works have influenced the way you write now?
When I first started writing, I wanted to write like Sharon Olds and Dorianne Laux. They gave me permission to be a woman who could inhabit her whole body. I became pretty attached to the collected works of Ai, who reminded me that my writerly persona could be bold, despicable, and beautiful. Some writers who I turn to over and over again when I need to live in language—Lucille Clifton, Louise Glück, Patricia Smith, Donika Kelly, Marie Howe, and Jesmyn Ward. Ward writes prose like a poet. I could live in her writing.
What other professions have you worked in?
I worked in a grocery store for nearly seven years. I would like to tell you it was a valuable poetic experience, but I don’t harbor that kind of optimism. I learned hard lessons about listening, opening my heart, being patient, and reflecting. In that way, sure, I learned how to be a poet. But more importantly, I learned that the produce code for bananas is 4011 and that’s the kind of lesson I want us all to take away from that.
What did you want to be when you were young?
Is there any specific music that aids you through the writing or editing process?
We talk about music helping us write, but no one talks about music helping us un-write.
What do you do to recover from the writing process?
Writing is hard work. I use music to bring me back to myself after a long writing session. For that, I like music I can vibe to, music I can put in my headphones and drift away to, artists like Gallant, Alex Isley, Alaina Castillo, and UMI.
Who typically gets the first read of your work?
My partner. He doesn’t get poetry; he might even hate it—but he knows me, and he knows when I’m trying to hide from the difficult thing I need to say. He holds me accountable and I love him for it.
If you could work in another art form what would it be?
Cooking—I want to express myself in the love language of some damn good food.
What are you working on currently?
I’m working on my dissertation—a manuscript that retells the books of the Old Testament through the lens of my maternal history.
What are you reading right now?
Crush – Jennifer Jackson Berry
All the Gay Saints – Kayleb Rae Candrilli
The Women of Brewster Place – Gloria Naylor
DIAMOND FORDE's debut book, Mother Body, was selected by Patricia Smith for the Saturnalia 2019 Poetry Prize and will be forthcoming in Spring 2021. She is a Callaloo and Tin House fellow whose work has appeared in Tupelo Quarterly, Ninth Letter, The Offing,and more. She is the recipient of the 2019 Margaret Walker Memorial Prize, finalist for the 2019 Georgia Poetry Prize, the Pleaides Press Editor Prize, and the 3rd place winner for the Frontier Poetry Award for New Poets. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Creative Writing at Florida State University.