Poetry Book Society Recommendation
Ruth Stone once said, ‘I decided very early on not to write like other people.’ What Love Comes To shows the fruits of this resolve in the lifetime’s work of a true American original. The winner of the National Book Award at the age of 87, Ruth Stone was still writing extraordinary poetry well into her 90s. This comprehensive selection includes early formal lyrics, fierce feminist and political poems, and meditations on her husband’s suicide, on love, loss, blindness and ageing. What Love Comes To opens up her own particular world of serious laughter; of uncertainty and insight; of mystery and acceptance.
The book has a foreword by Sharon Olds, who ‘had the joy of meeting Ruth Stone’ as a teenager, a later encounter giving her ‘a vision of a genius at work’:
‘Ruth Stone’s poems are mysterious, hilarious, powerful. They are understandable, often with a very clear surface, but not simple – their intelligence is crackling and complex… She is a poet of great humor – mockery even – and a bold eye, not obedient. There is also disrespect in her poems, a taken freedom, that feels to me like a strength of the disenfranchised.’
‘Ruth’s poems are direct and lissome, her plainness is elegant and shapely, her music is basic, classical: it feels as real as the movement of matter. When we hear a Stone first line, it is as if we have been hearing this voice in our head all day, and just now the words become audible. She is a seer, easily speaking clear truths somehow unmentioned until now… She has a tragic deadpan humor: love and destruction are right next to each other…’
‘Ruth Stone’s poems, in their originality and radiance, their intelligence and music and intense personal politics, shine in their place within her generation, among the pioneering women (Bishop, Brooks, Rukeyser)… Ruth Stone’s poems are the food the spirit craves.’
‘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’ – Galway Kinnell.
Ruth Stone filmed in Vermont
Pamela Robertson-Pearce filmed Ruth Stone in Vermont in September 2008 and again in September 2009. By the time of our two visits, when she was 93 and 94, Ruth had almost lost her sight, but still knew many poems by heart, especially ones from earlier books, while declaring she had never learned them, and that she never composed them either, she just had to grab them when they came to her. This film supersedes an earlier, shorter version which drew only on our first visit, and is taken from the new Bloodaxe DVD-anthology In Person: World Poets, which includes all the poems she reads on the film in the book part of the film/book package.
Ruth Stone reads ‘Curtains’
This archive recording is from the Poetry Breaks, a series of videos made in the late 1980s and early 1990s by creator Leita Luchetti, who co-produced the series with the WGBH New Television Workshops. Ruth Stone’s reading was filmed at Longfellow House, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
North America: Copper Canyon Press
Reprint available in July 2017