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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 Next Galaxy (Copper Canyon Press, 2002), which received the 2002 National Book Award; and Ordinary Words (Paris Press, 1999), which received the National Book Critics Circle Award.

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 ninety-six years old.


Selected Bibliography

What Love Comes To: New and Selected Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 2008)
In the Dark (Copper Canyon Press, 2004)
In the Next Galaxy (Copper Canyon Press, 2002)
Ordinary Words (Paris Press, 1999)
Simplicity (Paris Press, 1995)
Second Hand Coat: Poems New and Selected (D. R. Godine, 1987)
American Milk (From Here Press, 1986)
Cheap : New Poems and Ballads (Harcourt Brace, 1975)
Topography, and Other Poems (Harcourt Brace, 1971)
In an Iridescent Time (Harcourt Brace, 1959)
 

Pokeberries

I started out in the Virginia mountains
with my grandma’s pansy bed
and my Aunt Maud’s dandelion wine.
We lived on greens and back-fat and biscuits.
My Aunt Maud scrubbed right through the linoleum.
My daddy was a Northerner who played drums
and chewed tobacco and gambled.
He married my mama on the rebound.
Who would want an ignorant hill girl with red hair?
They took a Pullman up to Indianapolis
and someone stole my daddy’s wallet.
My whole life has been stained with pokeberries.
No man seemed right for me. I was awkward
until I found a good wood-burning stove.
There is no use asking what it means.
With my first piece of ready cash I bought my own
place in Vermont; kerosene lamps, dirt road.
I’m sticking here like a porcupine up a tree.
Like the one our neighbor shot. Its bones and skin
hung there for three years in the orchard.
No amount of knowledge can shake my grandma out of me;
or my Aunt Maud; or my mama, who didn’t just bite an apple
with her big white teeth. She split it in two.

From What Love Comes To: New & Selected Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 2010). Copyright © 2010 by Ruth Stone. Used with the permission of Copper Canyon Press.

From What Love Comes To: New & Selected Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 2010). Copyright © 2010 by Ruth Stone. Used with the permission of Copper Canyon Press.

Ruth Stone

Ruth Stone

Ruth Stone, whose poetry collection In the Next Galaxy (Copper Canyon Press, 2002) received the National Book Award, was the recipient of the 2002 Wallace Stevens Award given by the Academy of American Poets.

by this poet

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.
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
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