She was born Deborah Leah Sugarbaker in Jefferson City, Missouri, on February 6, 1950. Her father was a physican and her mother was a nurse; she was the sixth child in a family of ten children.
Digges received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California-Riverside in 1976, a Masters from the University of Missouri in 1982, and her M.F.A. in Poetry from the Iowa Writers Workshop in 1984. In the course of her academic career, she taught in the writing and English faculties of New York University, Boston University, Columbia University, and Tufts University.
She authored four books of poetry and two memoirs. Her first book of poems, Vesper Sparrows, won the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Prize for Poetry. In 1997 Digges was awarded the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, the largest prize for a single work of poetry, for her book Rough Music. She was also the winner of two Pushcart Prizes. Digges translated the poems of the Cuban poet Maria Elena Cruz Varela. A book of poetry, The Wind Blows Through the Doors of My Heart: Poems, is projected to be forthcoming from Knopf in 2010.
Digges died April 10, 2009, in Amherst, Massachusetts. Her death was reported as a suicide following her fatal fall from the top of the bleachers of McGuirk Stadium at the University of Massachusetts.