The Ruth Stone Reader

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Compiled by Ben Pease

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s this is the first entry in The Reading Room, I’d like to take a moment to explain its reason for being. It dawned on us that we didn’t have to wait for Ruth Stone’s property to be renovated in order to begin programming for the Ruth Stone Foundation. Basically, we want to do things that are in service to Ruth Stone’s legacy and the community. When she lived in Goshen, Ruth welcomed artists young and old to stay and focus on their craft; thus, Safe Places in New York City seeks to help writers find a place to rest their head and promote their work. As Dinitia Smith notes in her New York Times article,  “In Goshen, at first, there was no running water, no central heating, but, Phoebe remembered, ‘we had five thousand books.'” We wanted to create a series of selected readings while the five thousand are packed up during renovation.  The “readers” will focus on both authors  and topics that deserve deeper consideration.


 

 

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hile this is not a complete list of every piece of writing by or about her, it does contain over a dozen essays/interviews, fifty-plus poems, and videos, too! Some highlights:

Abigail Stone: “We moved so often that there was never a last years supply of anything. In fact, in ten years we moved twenty-seven times. From one university to another, from one chair to another honorary position, we traveled with the car full of poetry and pets, plants, and daughters.”

Phoebe Stone: “In the spring she would plant the seedlings in the ground. But she never shaped them to fit her plans. She admired them and she let them do as they pleased, go where they would, blossom as they wished. She never weeded anything. She used to say, ‘A little sunlight and a little freedom and a little encouragement.'”

Ruth Stone (in Diniata Smith’s article): “I used to sneak into the back study to write when they were little,” Ms. Stone remembered. “I’d sit on the floor with my typewriter with my foot against the door to keep them out. I’d leave big spaces on the page so I could fill them in later because I didn’t have time to do it then.”

Philip Levine: “Ruth lived in the only world of poetry that matters, the one without publishers, awards, prestige, competition, jealousy, money — the one we might call ‘poetry eternal,’ the same world the great poems live in. Now she is there forever.”

Sandra Gilbert (via Modern American Poetry and This House is Made of Poetry): “What fuels Ruth Stone’s impulse toward mercy? I would say that one source of her “desperate love” is maternity. [. . .] On the one hand, unlike a number of her nineteenth-century precursors, Ruth hasn’t apparently felt constrained by an ideology of domesticity that would require her to sentimentalize the experience of motherhood. On the other hand, unlike a number of her modernist predecessors, she hasn’t found it necessary to repudiate the role of mother. Instead, she writes to and about her children—facts of her fife and art—as directly and lucidly as she would about any other subject. They are there, not to be glamorized but not to be ignored. And the continuing empathy along with the alternating passions of delight and despair that they evoke, as all children do, widen from a mother-bond into a bond with a larger population.”

Ruth Stone (with Rebecca Seiferle): “Yep, we are everything, every experience we’ve ever had, and in some of us, a lot of it translates and makes patterns, poems. But my God, we don’t even began to touch upon it. There’s an enormous amount, but we can touch such a little.”


 

Articles and Interviews

A collection of articles and poems at Modern American Poetry

“The Imagined Galaxies of Ruth Stone” on NPR’s All Things Considered, by Melissa Block

“On the Road to Paradise: An Interview with Ruth Stone” at The Drunken Boat, by Rebecca Seiferle

“Philip Levine Reads Ruth Stone” at WNYC

“Poetry That Captures A Tough 87 Years; For National Book Award Winner, Long-Ago Loss Tinges Achievements” in The New York Times, by Dinitia Smith

“Ruth Stone (1915-2011)” at Bloodaxe Blogs, by Neil Astley

“Ruth Stone: An Expert Poet and a Classy Grandma” at The Poetry Foundation, by Bianca Stone

“Ruth Stone, a Poet Celebrated Late in Life, Dies at 96” in The New York Times, by William Grimes

“Ruth Stone obituary” at The Guardian, by Chard deNoird

“The Lives They Lived: Ruth Stone” in The New York Times Magazine, by Philip Levine

“The Wife’s Went Bazook: Comedic Feminism in the Poetry of Ruth Stone” in This House is Made of Poetry: The Art of Ruth Stone, by Kevin Clark

“Vermont poet Ruth Stone remembered by her daughter” at The Burlington Free Press, By Phoebe Stone

“Wrapped in Newspaper,” at TheThe Poetry Blog, by Abigail Stone


 

Works

“Breaking the Mold of American Poetry,” poems (and a reading of and commentary on Emily Dickinson’s work) at the Dickinson Electronic Archives

“Another Feeling” at American Life in Poetry

“Weathering” at Verse Daily

“Things I Say to Myself While Hanging Laundry” with a foreword by Carol Rumens in The Guardian

Thirty-three(!) poems and more at the Poetry Foundation

Four poems featured on Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac

Three poems at The Whiting Award Website

Four poems at The Academy of American Poets

Ten Poems at persimmon tree

Five Poems and a Short Story at The New Yorker (requires a subscription/account)

Three Poems at Narrative Magazine (requires a free(?) account)


 

Videos