Deborah Digges, a distinguished poet and memoirist who wrote lyrically and hauntingly about the challenges of everyday life, fell to her death April 10. She was 59.
Digges was found on the ground outside McGuirk Alumni Stadium at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst and taken to a Northampton, Mass., hospital, where she was pronounced dead, said Edward F. Blaguszewski, a university spokesman.
Her oldest son, Charles, said he "strongly questions" whether his mother's death was a suicide. She often exercised at the stadium, no one saw exactly what happened and she left no note, he said.
"Given that much of her work is a celebration of life and nature, I feel the circumstances of her death are inconclusive," he said.
Digges, who lived in Amherst, joined the English faculty at Tufts University in Medford, Mass., in 1986 after publishing her first collection of poems, "Vesper Sparrows." It won New York University's Delmore Schwartz Memorial Prize for best first book of poetry.
In a statement, senior administrators at Tufts called her death "a great loss for American poetry" and "an especially painful loss for the Tufts community where we knew her not only as one of the outstanding creative visionaries in American poetry, but also as an inspiring teacher, a generous mentor, and a cherished friend."
For her third collection, "Rough Music" (1995), she received the Kingsley Tufts Award, given by Claremont Graduate School to an emerging poet. It came with $50,000.
Alice Quinn, who was the longtime poetry editor of the New Yorker magazine and a member of the Claremont panel of judges that honored Digges, called her poems "among the most beautiful and moving of any being written by a poet of her generation," The Times reported in 1996.
Digges once said she liked "high-volume poems. I love confrontation. I love how light, color, time, memory, the present . . . collide."
On March 9, she was in Pasadena with other Kingsley Tufts honorees for a reading at the Boston Court Performing Arts Center. She read “The Birthing," a poem about how she and her husband stopped on the side of the road to deliver a calf. She wrote in part:
I watched him thrust his arms
into the yet to be, where I
imagined holy sparrows
in the hall of souls for his big
mortal hands just to make