November 29, 2011
Hail & Farewell: Ruth Stone
by Valerie Merians
Noted American poet Ruth Stone is dead at 96. Stone, born on June 8, 1915, in Roanoke, Virginia, died Nov. 19 of natural causes at her home in Ripton, Vt, according to her daughter, Phoebe Stone, as reported in the New York Times obituary.
Stone is the author of 13 volumes of poetry, though she only won distinction for her work quite late in life: She was a finalist for Pulitzer Prize at the age of 93, for her collection In The Next Galaxy, and she received the National Book Award, at the age of 87, for her poetry collection Ordinary Words. Stone was also the recipient of the Wallace Stevens Award in 2002, as well a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1971.
In awarding her the Wallace Stevens Award, the poet Galway Kinnell said of her work:
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.
Below is the title poem from her Pulitzer-nominated collection, courtesy of the Academy of American Poets website:
IN THE NEXT GALAXY
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 galaxy,
certain planets will have true
blue skies and drinking water.
Valerie Merians is the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House.