poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

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 Dark (2004); In the Next Galaxy (2002) which received the 2010 National Book Award; Ordinary Words (Paris Press, 1999), which received the National Book Critics Circle Award; Simplicity (1997); Who is the Widow's Muse (1991); Second Hand Coat (1987); Cheap (1975); Topography (1971); and In an Iridescent Time (1959).

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 96 years old.

The Cabbage

Ruth Stone, 1915 - 2011
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
against a dark sky with pinpoints of stars.
The eager vegetable, opening itself 
as if to eat the air, or speak in cabbage
language of the meanings within meanings;
while the points of stars hide their massive
violence in the dark upper half of the painting.
You can live with this. 

From In the Next Galaxy by Ruth Stone. Copyright 2004 Ruth Stone. Used by permission of Copper Canyon Press. All rights reserved.

From In the Next Galaxy by Ruth Stone. Copyright 2004 Ruth Stone. Used by permission of Copper Canyon Press. All rights reserved.

Ruth Stone

Ruth Stone

Ruth Stone was born on June 8, 1915, in Roanoke, Virginia. Her

by this poet

poem
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
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
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.