Remembering Poet Ruth Stone

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Poet Ruth Stone died over the weekend at age 96. Melissa Block visited Stone, winner of the National Book Award, back in 2004. She has this remembrance.


It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz.


And I'm Melissa Block.

We learned over the weekend that poet Ruth Stone has died at the age of 96. Literary acclaim didn't come until late in her life. Stone was 87 when she won the National Book Award. She joked at the ceremony: I think you probably gave it to me because I'm old.

I visited Ruth Stone on her 89th birthday. She was surrounded by family at her ramshackle farmhouse in rural Goshen, Vermont.


RUTH STONE: I'm only 89.


STONE: That's not very old.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: No. I thought you were - I thought you were...

STONE: You thought I was 109, didn't you?

BLOCK: Ruth Stone's vibrant personality came through in her long hair, hennaed the color of paprika. She had high, apple cheeks and bright eyes, even though her vision was failing her. She strained to read from one of her poems, pressing her face close to the pages of huge type.


STONE: (Reading) My mahjong eyes weep when the sky weeps, when color fades, but it is the alphabet, neat, succulent, fresh slants of light on the cave wall.

BLOCK: As we sat on her screened porch, Ruth Stone talked with me about the physical sensation of capturing a poem, starting when she was just 6 years old.


STONE: I remember when I was very young, feeling the poem coming. And it would be like it was off at a distance, but it was coming like a train, you know, coming toward me. And then I would run into the house to try to find paper and pencil, to write it down. You know, it was like almost automatic. It still happens. I feel them coming.

BLOCK: Ruth Stone wrote about her beloved Vermont; about poetry; and many times about her late husband, poet Walter Stone. He committed suicide, and haunted her poems. In one, she wrote: In my skull, night after night, I wrestle with your obstinate ghost.


STONE: I think every year - let's see, he's been dead maybe 40-some years - I think every year or every day or something, that it won't come back - the pain. And it always does.

BLOCK: Ruth Stone died at home in Vermont with her family by her side, on November 19th. She was buried behind the farmhouse where we visited, and where she wrote so many of her poems; buried in an orchard where long ago, she would pick raspberries, disappearing into the thicket of bushes.

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