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  • Skylar Hamilton Burris

The Poetry of Olivia Diamond

Olivia Diamond was born in Chicago and lived most of her life in Illinois until moving to a log home in the mountains of northwest Montana, twenty-five miles from the nearest town. There she fishes, enjoys nature, and writes. She is the author of several novels and collections of poetry. Some years ago, Olivia shared with me her collection Women at the Well (1stBooks, © 2001, ISBN 0-75962-882-3), which is narrated through the voices of several Biblical women, from Eve to Damarias.

The poet addresses many of the questions that will little doubt enter the mind of a female Bible reader: How did Hagar feel, being given to Abram and abused by Sarah? How did Tamar survive the rape of Amnon? Why was Lot’s wife punished for merely looking back while Lot, who offers his own daughters to be ravished, escapes unscathed?

Diamond gives many of her speakers a hard edge and places bitter words into their mouths. I had some objections to the poet’s interpretation of these women, and I had doubts about the theological implications of some of the poems, but I had no quarrel with the quality of writing. The stories the poet tells are personal and powerful. They breathe new life into these previously underdeveloped figures. Her rhyme, when used, is unobtrusive. Diamond’s poems are thoughtful, fresh, and largely unhampered by cliché.

Four of her poems have been published in Ancient Paths, including the title poem of this collection, “The Woman at the Well,” which appeared in Issue 10. Her poem “Reprieve” was published in Issue 9, and “For my John of the Cross.” which I share with you below, appeared in Issue 8. I also nominated the poem for a Pushcart Prize in 2002.

For My John of the Cross by Olivia Diamond

Sometimes he seems to be Christ crucified On the cross; other times he carries it On his back through alley ways of regret. On his shirt childhood pain is simplified To read: "It’s never too late to have A happy childhood." No, it is never late For time has no distinctions to dictate. The moment is too momentous to have Marleys in chains pursuing us as clocks Tick onward to tombs opening for those Who failed to squeeze attar of the rose, Who were deaf to words of water on rocks: This the wine God gave to gladden the heart When wet on lips with life you have a part.

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