The COVID pandemic has, by and large, been a time of sorrow. But Brooke Diamond, a Scarsdale High School 10th grader and Fox Meadow resident, has distilled her experiences over the past year into something extraordinary: a beautiful — and now prizewinning — poem. Her composition, “Movement of Time,” took third place in a writing competition sponsored by The LifeWrite Project, an initiative that raises funds for COVID-related charities.
The win was an early holiday gift for Diamond, who received the good news in December. It is a victory she relishes, especially since she initially had been nervous to submit her poem for consideration.
“Someone had told my mom about the program, and my mom said, ‘Hey, we can enter.’ I was like, ‘Oh, I don’t know if my poems are that good,’” she recalled. “And then I was like, ‘Just go for it.’ So I went for it.”
The contest called for a wide range of entries — not just poetry, but short stories and anecdotes as well, so long as they related to people’s experiences during COVID. At first, Diamond struggled to capture the tumult of it all in verse.
“I think [COVID] first came in as a winding roller coaster, and it brought in different emotions and it brought in different experiences,” she said. “Everyone was impacted differently, but for me, I adapted quickly and I got up and I kept moving forward, because that’s the only thing you can really do.”
Transforming these complex thoughts into verse was an intensive, two-day process. At first, Diamond remembered, she asked herself hard questions: “How exactly am I supposed to write all this in one poem — all of the different ways that COVID came? Not just for me, but for all of us?” she said. “And then once I kind of got the idea of where I wanted to go with it, then I really went with it.”
The result is a searing, insightful work that captures the ways in which both time and societal norms have shifted during the pandemic. A few excerpts:
A solitary moment expands while we wait for it to end
Leaving me to wonder, as I race forward, how much longer until time advances …
A sea of masks surrounds me
And I feel clustered and cramped, despite everyone being distanced…
In its entirety, the poem reflects the irony of our times. Yet the musings end on a youthful, hopeful note:
I need to keep going.
The poem, along with other selected entries (including that of Diamond’s mother) appears in “The Corona Silver Linings Anthology,” available through Amazon.
While being publicly recognized for her literary prowess is a new experience for Diamond, she has been writing poetry for years. She traces her love for the genre back to sixth grade: “Our teacher gave us an assignment — one had to write a poem about something that was simple, but was gradually progressing,” she recalled. “I had written poems before, but in this one I was using different elements in one poem, and I was trying to make it sound good … that’s how I kind of got into it. I could just sort of see that it was a way that I could express myself.”
From then on, Diamond began writing poems fairly regularly. On discord.com, a group-chatting platform that hosts interest-based communities, she is an administrator of a poetry server called thoughts n-balloons.
“I run it basically with a friend, and we started it in about March of last year, at the beginning of COVID, because we wanted to start a community where people with poetry could come together,” she said. “I’ve been writing a few poems from then, and I’ve also been helping people with their poems. It’s just really been an enlightening experience.”
Like many young poets, Diamond’s favorite school subject is English, and she is a voracious reader (a pastime facilitated by the brand-new Kindle Cloud Reader she received from the LifeWrite Project for her win). In terms of poetry, “I really enjoy Kobayashi’s work,” she said, referring to Kobayashi Issa, a Japanese poet known for his haikus and journals. Diamond is currently reading the “All Souls” trilogy, a series of three books that follow the relationship between a witch named Diana and her vampire soul mate, Matthew.
Though she enjoys both consuming and creating literature, Diamond doesn’t have plans to pursue a career in the arts. “I would love to be a writer, but I’m not the kind of person who could live like that,” she admitted. “I’m the kind of person who needs to have a paycheck. I’m looking into engineering — I really like doing that sort of thing, and [at school] I’m in the robotics club, actually.”
Yet she is confident that poetry will always be a part of her life. For other aspiring poets, Diamond offers some wise advice: “I think that it starts from the soul and it ends in the brain,” she said. “It starts from when you take a piece of your heart and you find the confidence to put it on paper and you share it with others. It takes a lot of confidence to be able to write poems. So if people are already doing that, they’ve taken a huge step.”