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About this poet

Ruth Stone was born on June 8, 1915, in Roanoke, Virginia.

Her books of poetry include What Love Comes To: New and Selected Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 2008), a finalist for the 2009 Pulitzer Prize; In the Dark (2004); In the Next Galaxy (2002) which received the 2010 National Book Award; Ordinary Words (Paris Press, 1999), which received the National Book Critics Circle Award; Simplicity (1997); Who is the Widow's Muse (1991); Second Hand Coat (1987); Cheap (1975); Topography (1971); and In an Iridescent Time (1959).

Stone is the recipient of the 2002 Wallace Stevens Award. The poet Galway Kinnell writes:

Her poems startle us over and over with their shapeliness, their humor, their youthfulness, their wild aptness, their strangeness, their sudden familiarity, the authority of their insights, the moral gulps they prompt, their fierce exactness of language and memory.

Among her other awards are two Guggenheim Fellowships, The Bess Hokin Award from Poetry magazine, the Shelley Memorial Award, and the Vermont Cerf Award for lifetime achievement in the arts. She taught creative writing at several universities, including the State University of New York in Binghamton. A Vermont resident since 1957, she died at her home in Ripton, Vermont, on November 19, 2011. She was 96 years old.

Always on the Train

Ruth Stone, 1915 - 2011
Writing poems about writing poems
is like rolling bales of hay in Texas.
Nothing but the horizon to stop you.

But consider the railroad's edge of metal trash;
bird perches, miles of telephone wires.
What is so innocent as grazing cattle?
If you think about it, it turns into words.

Trash is so cheerful; flying up
like grasshoppers in front of the reaper.
The dust devil whirls it aloft; bronze candy wrappers,
squares of clear plastic--windows on a house of air.

Below the weedy edge in last year's mat,
red and silver beer cans.
In bits blown equally everywhere,
the gaiety of flying paper
and the black high flung patterns of flocking birds.

From This Art: Poems on Poetry edited by Michael Wiegers. Copyright © 2003 by Ruth Stone. Reprinted by permission of Copper Canyon Press. All right reserved.

From This Art: Poems on Poetry edited by Michael Wiegers. Copyright © 2003 by Ruth Stone. Reprinted by permission of Copper Canyon Press. All right reserved.

Ruth Stone

Ruth Stone

Ruth Stone was born on June 8, 1915, in Roanoke, Virginia. Her

by this poet

poem
You have rented an apartment.
You come to this enclosure with physical relief,
your heavy body climbing the stairs in the dark,
the hall bulb burned out, the landlord 
of Greek extraction and possibly a fatalist.
In the apartment leaning against one wall,
your daughter's painting of a large frilled cabbage
poem
Things will be different.
No one will lose their sight,
their hearing, their gallbladder.
It will be all Catskills with brand
new wrap-around verandas.
The idea of Hitler will not 
have vibrated yet.
While back here,
they are still cleaning out
pockets of wrinkled
Nazis hiding in Argentina.
But in the next
poem
Putting up new curtains,
other windows intrude.
As though it is that first winter in Cambridge
when you and I had just moved in.
Now cold borscht alone in a bare kitchen.

What does it mean if I say this years later?

Listen, last night
I am on a crying jag
with my landlord, Mr. Tempesta.
I sneaked in two cats.