While the eyes may be the windows to the soul, for Annie Diamond, the window is her thought-provoking poetry.
“I hope I’m intuitive to the world around me. I like to think I am. I pay attention. I take details from my life, both my interior and exterior life; that is, my own mental and emotional life, and the things I experience, to create my work,” said Diamond, 22, a Wilton native and graduate of Wilton High School, whose first book of poems, Nostos, was published last month by Turtledove Press.
From Homeric Greek, at once it
means longing and homecoming.
It means pain but also the lessening
of that pain. In 1688 a Swiss student
made nostalgia a real medical condition.
Medicine has allowed us this sadness for
more than 3 centuries, this emptiness,
this epic longing for the past.
Getting the book published was a labor of love. She raised the money to publish her book through Kickstarter, an online funding platform for creative projects. “Anyone who donated at least $20 to Kickstarter will receive a signed copy of the book,” said Diamond, the youngest author published by Turtledove.
“I’m interested in publishing writers and artists who are young and unestablished, folks who maybe have never made a book before and want to take the ride with me. I look for raw talent and potential,” said Martha Scott Burton, editor of Turtledove Press, a New York-based independent publisher specializing in poetry and photography. Burton was impressed by Diamond’s innate creativity, command of her natural talent, and mastery of words to evoke a feeling. “Annie has a very luscious approach to language, but a lusciousness that doesn’t run away from her – controlled indulgences. She really paints a picture with direct references. The book has a very strong emotional thematic that ties the whole book together,” said Burton.
Nostos, an insightful compilation of 25 poems, comprises a few recurring themes. “One is definitely this idea of nostos, of returning home after being away from it. A lot of poems in the book also deal with the idea of looking for a place that feels like home. Two and a half years ago, I had a serious medical accident, and a few of the poems are about that, too,” said Diamond, explaining the book title takes its name from a theme in Odysseus, the Greek hero returning home by sea. “Nostos has the same root as nostalgia, so it refers to both homecoming and longing. I first learned the word when I read Ulysses. Nostos is the name of the final section of the book during which its protagonist returns home after a day walking around Dublin engaging with many people. The things this word embodies – an epic longing for the past, but also a sense of returning home – really resonate with me and the themes I often address in my writing.”
Like most poets, Diamond’s poems reflect her striving to make sense of the world. “Every time I write a poem I’m happy with, I feel like I’ve worked something out, solved some puzzle, whether it’s an interior puzzle (some feelings that I am grappling with), or an exterior one (a relationship I have, with another person or a place or an experience),” she explained. Her work is inspired by her travels and exploration of new places. “I also read a lot, and often I will borrow words or phrases from what I read and use it to start a poem of mine. I don’t just borrow from other poetry; everything is fair game. If I like a particular word, no matter where I see it, I will find a way to use it in a poem.”
A 2015 graduate of Barnard College with a bachelor’s degree in English, Diamond immersed herself in the world of poetry. She studied abroad at Oxford University and completed a residency at the prestigious MacDowell Colony, the oldest art colony in the United States. Her work has been published in literary journals/magazines, including Avatar Review, The Columbia Review, and The Lyric, among others, and her poems have won numerous awards.
Batya Diamond, Annie’s mom, recognized her daughter’s talent at an early age. “I think seriously in late-middle school or high school, and by the time she went off to college she was calling herself a poet. She was always reading. She loved to take her dolls/toys/whatever she could find and create ‘set-ups’ and tell stories with them, almost in the way of a movie director,” said Batya Diamond. “I think her dad and I gave her a lot of room to be creative, and we were always available to listen to her stories and singing. I don’t remember exposing her specifically to poetry, though perhaps me being a music lover (her dad is too) and songwriter opened her up to self-expression in lyric form. I’ve always known that she’s a deep soul and that her writing has the power to move people.”
Diamond describes her poetry as lyrical. “A lyric poem is typically spoken in the first person, which almost all of my poems are, and engages with personal emotions. I really detest the term confessional poetry, but I guess if you had to associate my poetry with a particular historical movement it would probably be the confessional school,” she said, mentioning some famous confessional poets such as Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, and Allen Ginsberg. Diamond’s teachers and professors helped her hone her craft through critical feedback and exposing her to different writers. “More important than that was their endless encouragement; if not for these teachers consistently making me feel like I had a valuable voice as a writer, I probably would not still be writing. I have credited them by name in the dedication of my book.”
The first poet who made Diamond feel like she could and should write poetry was Billy Collins, the 2001-2003 U.S. Poet Laureate known for his contemporary, thought-provoking poetry. “Even when I was thirteen or so, his poetry spoke to me in that it was very simple and accessible.”
Currently living in Boston, she’s pursuing an M.F.A. in poetry at Boston University under the tutelage of Professor Robert Pinsky, another former U.S. poet laureate (1997-2000), whose work she deeply admires.
Diamond’s goal is to complete a Ph.D. in English. “I want to teach at the college level at some point, ideally both English and creative writing. If I can mean half as much to some students as a few of my teachers and professors have meant to me as a young writer, that will feel like a successful life, and I definitely plan to continue writing poetry.”
Nostos is available for $15.00 at Turtledove Press: turtledovepressny.com/shop/.