Ruth Stone (1915-2011). Courtesy Kingdom Books.

Ruth Stone
Born June 8, 1915(1915-Template:MONTHNUMBER-08)
Roanoke, Virginia
Died November 19, 2011(2011-Template:MONTHNUMBER-19) (aged 96)
Ripton, Vermont
Nationality United States American
Occupation Poet, Teacher, Author
Known for What Love Comes To
Awards 2009 Pulitzer Prize finalist, 2007 state poet, 2002 National Book Award, Whiting Award, 2 Guggenheim Fellowships

Ruth Stone (June 8, 1915 - November 19, 2011) was an American poet, author, and teacher.[1]


Stone was born in Roanoke, Virginia.[2]

In 1959, after her husband, professor Walter Stone, committed suicide, she raised 3 daughters alone. She wrote that her poems are "love poems, all written to a dead man" whose death caused her to "reside in limbo" with her daughters.[1]

For 20 years she traveled the US, teaching creative writing at many universities, including the University of Illinois, University of Wisconsin, Indiana University, University of California, Davis, Brandeis University, and finally settling at State University of New York Binghamton.[1]

She died at her home in Ripton, Vermont, on November 19, 2011.[1]


Stone is the author of 13 books of poetry.[3] Her work is distinguished by an unusual tendency to draw imagery and language from the natural sciences: :this scientific habit of rendering looms larger, becomes not the whole of Stone’s poetic, but an essential component of its complex dynamic. The thematics suggest an ongoing byplay between science and some mode of intellection which is not science ... This is a philosophically serious writer, maybe one of the few instances of a genuinely integrated poetic sensibility we have seen in a very long time.[4]

Writer Elizabeth Gilbert tells a story about Stone's writing style and inspiration, which she had shared with Gilbert:

As [Stone] was growing up in rural Virginia, she would be out, working in the fields and she would feel and hear a poem coming at her from over the landscape. It was like a thunderous train of air and it would come barrelling down at her over the landscape. And when she felt it coming...cause it would shake the earth under her feet, she knew she had only one thing to do at that point. That was to, in her words, "run like hell" to the house as she would be chased by this poem.
The whole deal was that she had to get to a piece of paper fast enough so that when it thundered through her, she could collect it and grab it on the page. Other times she wouldn't be fast enough, so she would be running and running, and she wouldn't get to the house, and the poem would barrel through her and she would miss it, and it would "continue on across the landscape looking for another poet".
And then there were these times, there were moments where she would almost miss it. She is running to the house and is looking for the paper and the poem passes through her. She grabs a pencil just as it's going through her and she would reach out with her other hand and she would catch it. She would catch the poem by its tail and she would pull it backwards into her body as she was transcribing on the page. In those instances, the poem would come up on the page perfect and intact, but backwards, from the last word to the first.[5]


Stone received many awards and honors, including the 2002 National Book Award (for her collection In the Next Galaxy), the 2002 Wallace Stevens Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Eric Mathieu King Award from The Academy of American Poets, a Whiting Writers' Award (with which she bought plumbing for her house), 2 Guggenheim Fellowships [6][7] (1 of which roofed her house), the Delmore Schwartz Award, the Cerf Lifetime Achievement Award from the state of Vermont, and the Shelley Memorial Award.

In July 2007, she was named poet laureate of Vermont.

The voice of Ruth Stone reading her poem "Be Serious" is featured in the film, USA The Movie.[8]

Paintbrush: A Journal of Poetry and Translation 27 (2000/2001) was devoted entirely to Stone’s work.

The Ruth Stone Poetry Prize awarded by The Vermont College of Fine Arts and their literary journal Hunger Mountain is in its sixth year.[9]


  • In an Iridescent Time. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1959
  • Topography, and other poems. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1971.
  • Cheap: New poems and ballads. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1975.
  • Unknown Messages. Hindsboro, IL: Nemesis Press, 1973.
  • American Milk. Fanwood, NJ: From Here Press, 1986.
  • Second Hand Coat: Poems new and selected. Boston: Godine, 1987; Cambridge, MA: Yellow Moon Press, 1991.
  • The Solution. Baltimore, MD: Alembic Press, 1989.
  • Who is the Widow’s Muse?. Cambridge, MA: Yellow Moon Press, 1991.
  • Simplicity. Northampton, MA: Paris Press, 1995.
  • Ordinary Words. Ashfield, MA: Paris Press, 2000.
  • In the Next Galaxy. Port Townsend, WA: Copper Canyon Press, 2002.
  • In the Dark. Port Townsend, WA: Copper Canyon Press, 2004.
  • What Love Comes To: New and selected poems. Port Townsend, WA: Copper Canyon Press, 2008; Tarset, Northumberland, UK: Bloodaxe Books,2009.

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy WorldCat.[10]

Audio / video Edit

Poetry Breaks Ruth Stone Reads "Where I Came From"

Poetry Breaks Ruth Stone Reads "Where I Came From"

  • Poetry Alive! Ruth Stone reading from 'Ordinary Works' and 'Simplicity' (CD). Northampton, MA: Paris Press, 2000.[10]

See alsoEdit



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 William Grimes (November 24, 2011). "Ruth Stone, a Poet Celebrated Late in Life, Dies at 96". The New York Times. 
  2. Ruth Stone,, Academy of American Poets. Web, Jan. 12, 2019.
  4. Davis, Adam Brooke. A Green Old Age: The Achievement of Ruth Stone, Paintbrush xxvii (2000/2001) 82-96.
  5. Elizabeth Gilbert on nurturing creativity,, Feb 2009.
  6. The Oxford Companion to Women’s Writing in the United States. Ed. Cathy N. Davidson and Linda Wagner-Martin. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995. Oxford University Press.
  7. Guggenheim Foundation. The Foundation website lists the first fellowship awarded to a recipient, in this case, given to Stone in 1971.
  8. IMDb profile
  10. 10.0 10.1 Search results = au:Ruth Stone, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, Mar. 10, 2015.

External linksEdit

Audio / video
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