Thursday, January 26, 2012

Ruth Stone, Poet

Last night, while reading some Vermont newspapers my cousin had sent down here to another family member, I learned that Ruth Stone died in November. I have yet to read any of her work, but I'm still a bit obsessed with writers who had Vermont connections during the time I was growing up there. (I've done more than a dozen posts here about Shirley Jackson.) Ruth had a big one. For many years she lived in a town that was part of our union school system and one of her daughters was in my eighth grade math class. I don't remember her after that point, probably because, as I learned later, Ruth moved around teaching at colleges.

Her personal story is compelling. She was widowed in her forties and raised three children by herself. She published her first book of poetry in 1959, the year her husband died, but her next one didn't come out until 1971. Her major success didn't come until she was in her 80s and 90s. She won the National Book Award in 2002 and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2009.

She stayed the course, both with her work and with her family. I am impressed.

Ruth Stone's daughter, Phoebe, is the author of The Romeo and Juliet Code, published last year.


Anonymous said...

Hi Gail,
I have so enjoyed reading your posts about my family and my book. It is amazing that you and I grew up in the same vicinity and that we both emerged from that lonely snowy landscape as writers! I can remember my mother on below zero mornings struggling to get the car started so she could drive me down the mountain to school. We lived in that summer house in Goshen in the winter those years after my father died and I used to wake up in the morning with snow on my pillow. It sifted in under the window sill. Sometimes I think the loneliness and isolation encouraged creativity because we all ended up as writers.
I told my sister about your blog and she remembers you and corrected me when I mispronounced your last name! My mother was wonderful and I shall miss her forever.
Here's to Vermont!
Phoebe Stone

Gail Gauthier said...

It was good to hear from you.

I think the isolation, which will probably never be as bad now that we have the Internet, probably encouraged a lot of us to read. Someone said that no one wrote who didn't first read. (I may have read that in a Richard Peck article, though I don't know if it originated with him.)

I did feel that Vermont was the end of the Earth when I was growing up, that everything was happening somewhere else. So I was attracted to Dorothy Parker, who visited other Round Table writers at Lake Bomoseen, and Shirley Jackson, who lived in Bennington, because they were women who were able to be writers there in the woods. I don't think I realized that both of them were dead by the time I started high school.

Cripe, I feel a personal essay coming on over that.